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Drone successfully completes medical delivery to Isle of Wight

13 May 2020

A drone completed delivery of medical supplies from Solent to the Isle of Wight on Saturday 9 May.

The Windracers ULTRA (Credit: University of Southampton)

Windracers ULTRA drone set off from Lee-on-Solent airfield at 14.18pm and landed in Binstead Airfield 13 minutes later. It was carrying a consignment of specialist insulated cases containing pathology samples which were delivered straight to St Marys Hospital.

The Windracers ULTRA drone, with a twin-engine, fixed-wing platform, can carry a capacity of up to 100kg in a space approximately the size of an estate car boot. 

Funded by the Department for Transport, the flight was part of a trial by Solent Transport, the University of Southampton and Windracers. The aim is to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to help hospitals amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Clearance was provided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to allow the drone to fly beyond line of sight with benign cargo, and now, its on standby to deliver goods as and when required. The operation can carry out ten return flights between airfields per day, depending if this is needed.

Charles Scales, CEO of Windracers said: “We are delighted to assist the NHS, by operating the largest civilian autonomous UAV in mixed airspace, and seamlessly integrating into the NHS logistics operations. This is the future of emergency cargo transportation.”

Jim Scanlan, Professor of Design at the University of Southampton said: “This is a huge milestone with not only the aircraft designed at the University but also the entire avionics system, including a ground-breaking, robust and reliable master-less autopilot system.”

Tom Cherrett, Professor of Logistics and Transport Management at the University of Southampton said: “This first flight has been invaluable in showing how the logistics at either end will have to operate to tie in with the drone operations. This will all contribute to the learning process of how such autonomous systems will function alongside traditional supply chains in the future.”

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, Southampton Cabinet Member for Place & Transport and Chair of Solent Transport Joint Committee said, “We are very excited to support this ground-breaking trial of aerial drone delivery of medical supplies, which will help improve access to healthcare and save lives.”

Councillor Ian Ward, Cabinet Member for Transport at Isle of Wight, said “I am delighted that the Solent Transport, partners of which we are one, have worked together with the DfT and the University, at such speed to make this something that can support the Island, its community and most importantly the NHS in these difficult times.”

Maggie Oldham, Chief Executive at Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said: “This successful trial shows that everything possible is being done to support our local community during the response to coronavirus.

“Longer term, this work has the potential to significantly improve services for our patients by reducing waiting times for test results and speeding up the transfer of important, possibly life-saving equipment or medication.”

Video courtesy of the University of Southampton


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