BT powers a UK-first drone medical delivery trial
Following a recent investment in aerospace company Altitude Angel, BT Group is trialing the UK’s first commercial drone operation that aims to build the world’s longest automated drone ‘superhighway’.
The 32km drone route connects two Midlands hospitals; University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust sites in Coventry and Rugby.
According to BT, this is the UK’s first over-land Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) trial, and it was completed in complex airspace, close to urban areas.
A total of 130 flights and more than 30 hours’ worth of BVLOS flights were completed during the trial. More than 1,900km have been flown, including 220km by drone in a single day, without any faults or failures to report. This is the equivalent of flying from London to North Africa.
Skyfarer Ltd, aerial logistics specialists based in Coventry with partner, Medical Logistics UK, began the BVLOS medical Drone Delivery trial in October 2022.
“We have already hit some impressive statistics when it comes to BVLOS flight times and distances, which have all been completed without incident”, says Georgia Hanrahan, business manager, Skyfarer.
There is huge potential in the long-term opportunity drones present, with recent research indicating drones could increase GDP in the healthcare sector by over £4bn by 2030, and save the sector around half a billion in costs.
According to BT, the trial is not only important for medicine but also for drone advancement itself. BVLOS enables drones to travel longer distances, cut delivery time and reduce the costs involved in ground transportation over often-congested roads.
During the trial, Skyfarer conducted a carbon emission saving study, which identified a 99.98% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to a diesel van and a 90.5% reduction in emissions compared to an electric van.
“This trial would not have been possible without our consortium of partners,” added Hanrahan. “BT Group’s support has enabled a considerable amount of application learning and development, pushing Skyfarer and our consortium closer to a point where turn key long range BVLOS drone operations are an everyday occurrence.”
“The Skyfarer and BT Group relationship will be the driving force for this revolutionary innovation and its adaption to day-to-day life. With BT Group providing the technology and communications expertise, Skyfarer is able to offer long-range BVLOS capability in return to justify and prove systems.”
Last month, National Grid and The University of Manchester partnered to develop a new drone-mountable system that will allow real-time, live inspections of the Grid’s overhead transmission line insulators.
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