The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is testing drones to courier Covid-19 samples, blood tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits between hospitals in England.

Trials using the GPS-enabled remote-controlled aircraft are being carried out in Essex.

With a £1.3m funding from the UK Space Agency, NHS plans to create a network of air corridors for electric drones to navigate with the help of GPS.

An ex-military fast jet or helicopter instructor will pilot the drone.

In the earlier stage, the drone will fly between Essex’s Broomfield hospital, Basildon hospital and the Pathology First laboratory in Basildon.

Healthcare drone startup Apian came up with the idea of drone service between hospitals, the Guardian reported.

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Deploying drones is expected to cut down waiting times for couriers, free up NHS staff, while minimising physical contact and secondary transmission risks.

They can fly at 90m above ground and have been designed to withstand harsh weather conditions.

Apian founder Christopher Law was quoted by the news and media website as saying: “Covid-19 has highlighted challenges in NHS supply chain logistics.

“We are confident that by setting up a medical drone delivery service, we’ll be able to fly samples to labs more regularly, reliably and quickly, helping improve patient health outcomes.”

In May this year, a similar trial involved shipping of vital medical supplies using drones four times a day to the Isle of Mull, in the Inner Hebrides.

In April this year, Solent Transport announced the trialling of an innovative and fast Unmanned, Aerial, Vehicle (UAV) drone transportation service to fly medical supplies.

The initiative aims to transport medical supplies to benefit patients on the Isle of Wight St Marys Hospital from the mainland through the Solent Airport.