Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban, Scotland is set to host a drone delivery trial for National Health Service (NHS) in the country to support Covid-19 response in the UK.

The trial is being conducted by UK-based drone delivery provider Skyports in alliance with Thales, with support from Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).

During the trial, delivery drones supplied by unmanned aircraft-maker Wingcopter will be tested for their feasibility to deliver urgent medical cargo, including Covid-19 test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE), between remote medical facilities.

These trial flights will be planned using Thales’ SOARIZON drone operations management platform, which provides digital tools for drone flying operations.

The two-week trial will involve two-way flights between Lorn and Islands Hospital and Mull and Iona Community Hospital in Craignure, which is ten miles away on the Isle of Mull.

This ten-mile journey, which usually takes up to six hours one-way by road and ferry, will be reduced to approximately 15 minutes by drone.

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It is expected that the drone delivery service will provide isolated communities with access to tests, while reducing exposure of front-line medical and delivery personnel.

Skyports CEO Duncan Walker said: “Delivery drones are a fast and reliable solution for vital medical supplies. Skyports is proud to assist the NHS in Scotland with their Covid-19 response, helping to provide the essential healthcare that people need in harder-to-reach areas.

“Our trial in Argyll and Bute provides an important short-term response to the current pandemic and lays the foundations from which to grow a permanent drone delivery operation across a network of healthcare facilities around the country.”

As current rules require drones to be flown within visual line of sight of the remote pilot, the drone delivery service trial has required special permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.