BT, Skyfarer and Medical Logistics complete medical delivery drone trial

skyfarer medical delivery drone

The trial saw medical logistics drones connect University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust sites in Coventry and Rugby in the midlands.

BT says it’s the UK’s first over-land Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) trial, and the intention seems to be about providing proof of concept for delivering medical supplies between locations using ariel drones instead of traditional logistics on roads.

130 flights were carried out on the 32k m drone route, and the trial clocked more 1,900 km travelled in total, including 220 km by drone in a single day, ‘without any faults or failures to report.’

Aerial logistics firm Skyfarer, medical courier Medical Logistics UK and BT’s incubator arm Etc began the drone delivery trial in October 2022 using BT’s drone connectivity solution running on the EE network. We’re told the connectivity provided for this trial by BT was optimised for use at altitude, and critical drone communications were prioritised over standard internet traffic.

A carbon emission saving study was conducted during the trial, which identified a 99.98% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to transporting the goods via 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,” said Georgia Hanrahan, Business Manager, Skyfarer. “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.”

Tom Guy, Managing Director, Etc added: “This trial shows drones can do more than just delivering consumer goods, they have the potential to help save lives. Etc. want to be part of that change: using drones for medical deliveries can, in the future, ease the growing pressures on the healthcare system, where there is an ever-expanding need for hospitals to receive and transport time-sensitive medical supplies and samples.

“Recent BT Group research on public perception of drones shows that over two thirds (68%) of the public believe that drones will have a positive impact on their life, citing human safety as the biggest benefit of drones”

Earlier this year BT invested in £5 million into the development of the ‘UK’s drone superhighway’, AKA Project Skyway, which has the ambition of setting up ‘thousands of miles of Skyway infrastructure connecting towns and cities as well as transport and package delivery hubs, across the country.’

There have been some bullish estimates as to potential value of drones – such as this one which claims the ‘drone contribution to the UK economy’ will be £45 billion by 2030.

However some claim regulation reform is needed in order that development of the UK drone sector is not impeded. In January the Drone Delivery Group submitted a white paper which argued that while in the past it made sense to regulate the three ‘operating domains’ of land, sea and air separately, drones cut through all three, and regulation needs to keep up with that if it is to take off.


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