AGS Airports will lead a consortium to develop the UK’s first medical drone network delivering essential medicines, blood and other medical supplies all around Scotland.

Alongside 14 partners including the University of Strathclyde and air traffic control provider NATS, AGS – which manages the airports of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton – managed to secure £1.5m from the UK Industrial Strategy Future Flight Challenge Fund to demonstrate how drone technology can enhance the access to medical supplies, especially in rural parts of Scotland.

“This project has the potential to completely revolutionise the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland,” AGS Airports chief executive Derek Provan. “Not only does drone technology have the ability to speed-up the delivery of critical medical supplies, it could reduce waiting times for test results and, more importantly, help provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities.

Starting on 1 December and scheduled to run until April 2022, the Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland (CAELUS) revolves around developing the ground infrastructure needed to charge the drones and the systems needed to control the drones whilst flying.

Another important step will be to design pathways to ensure drones can safely share airspace with civil aviation.

“The organisations within this consortium are some of the most skilled and experienced in drone technology,” added Provan. “The funding from UK Industrial Strategy will allow us to work together to overcome some of the challenges associated with scaling drone operations to deliver a transport network that is technically, socially and financially viable.”

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“At this very challenging time for the international aviation industry, it is a great testament to the UK’s drive and ambition that we have had such a strong response to the first funded Future Flight competition,” commented Future Flight Challenge director Gary Cutts.

“The breadth, quality and creativity of the bids has been exceptional and the economic and social benefits offered are very significant. The projects we are now launching will position the UK strongly to drive the third revolution in aviation.”