AGS Airports is leading a consortium including NHS Scotland for an innovative project
A consortium led by AGS Airports in partnership with NHS Scotland to provide what will be the first medical distribution network in the UK using drones has launched its next phase.
CAELUS (Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland), secured £10.1m funding from the Future Flight Challenge at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) last month.
To celebrate, consortium members, stakeholders and politicians gathered at Glasgow Airport for the official launch and to hear more details about the project’s timeline and work so far.
Scottish Government Public Health Minister Maree Todd gave the keynote address at the event which featured a number of partner exhibits.
CAELUS brings together 16 partners including the University of Strathclyde, NATS, NHS Scotland and Skyports. Together they are working to set up what will be the first national drone network capable of transporting essential medicines, blood and other medical supplies across Scotland, including to remote communities.
Since securing £1.5m in January 2020, the CAELUS consortium has designed drone landing stations for NHS sites across Scotland and developed a virtual (digital twin) model of the network delivery system that connects hospitals, pathology labs, distribution centers and medical practices across Scotland. .
NHS Scotland said it would bring its ‘Once for Scotland’ approach to the project, the second phase of which will involve live flight testing and removing remaining barriers to the safe use of drones at large scale in Scottish airspace.
Fiona Smith, AGS Airports Group Head of Aerodrome Strategy and CAELUS Project Director, said: “We were delighted to learn that we have received the £10.1 million funding from UKRI to to the next phase of the project.
“The CAELUS project is set to revolutionize the way healthcare services are delivered in Scotland. A drone network can ensure that critical medical supplies can be delivered more efficiently, it can reduce wait times for test results and, most importantly, it can ensure equity of care between urban and rural communities. distant.
“As well as being able to undertake live flights, we can begin to deploy the physical infrastructure needed to support drones across Scotland. This will involve the construction of prototype landing bases as well as digital infrastructure and We will also work with local communities to ensure they understand why and how drones will be used.
The real flight tests will be operated by Skyports, member of the CAELUS consortium. The UK-based drone service provider is an experienced operator of medical cargo and dangerous goods flights. The company was instrumental in the first test flights with NHS Scotland in 2020 and 2021, flying over 14,000km in the region to date.
Hazel Dempsey, Program Manager for Innovation at NHS Grampian, said: “We are extremely delighted to be on the board of this high-end innovative project.
“Our goal, from an NHS perspective, is to test the use of drone technology in urban, remote, rural and island landscapes. We want to test whether the use of drones will improve important aspects of our logistics service, for example, to test the transport of laboratory samples, blood products, chemotherapy and drug delivery. Ultimately, we want to explore whether drone technology can speed up the diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.
“This has the potential to improve services for those whose care depends on train, ferry or airline timetables and help keep people at home where they can be supported by their families and loved ones.
“This project aims to position the UK and NHS Scotland as a leader in the third revolution in the aviation industry.”
David Lowe, National Clinical Director for Innovation, added: “This exciting national ‘next step’ work program builds on the successful launch of CAELUS 1 which focused on western Scotland.”
Alex Brown, Director of Skyports Drone Services, said: “Over the past four years we have launched projects across Scotland that demonstrate the benefits drone interventions can bring to individuals and communities, even in hard-to-reach areas. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have traveled thousands of miles to deliver critical pathology samples to the NHS, helping countless patients receive their diagnoses and treatment faster.
The CAELUS project is the next step in these critical trials to demonstrate the feasibility of drone services and pave the way for the launch of permanent drone delivery operations for the NHS.
The CAELUS consortium includes:
AGS Airports Limited
ANRA Technologies United Kingdom
Catapult connected places