On the 9th May, a consignment of medical supplies was sent across the Solent to the Isle of Wight by a drone designed and built by Engineering at the University of Southampton, the first time such a delivery has been done to the area.
The cargo, delivered by a the Windracers ULTRA drone, a large, twin-engine, fixed-wing platform with a carrying capacity of up to 100kg, was delivered to the Pathology Department at St Marys Hospital on the island to aid the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flight was an innovative trial conducted by Solent Transport, the University of Southampton and Windracers, which aims to bring 40kg of equipment per flight for now. Funded by the Department for Transport, it is part of Solent Transport’s Future Transport Zone project, which aims to bring more supplies to the Isle of Wight alongside existing delivery routes which currently use the ferry service.
Windracers ULTRA made a speedy run, setting off from Lee-On-Solent airfield at 14.18 to arrive at Binstead Airfield just 13 minutes later where the consignment of specialist insulated cases for carrying pathology samples was unloaded and driven to the hospital. The drone then left for the mainland just over an hour later.
Maggie Oldham, Chief Executive at Isle of Wight NHS Trust, praised the successful trial and the support it has brought to the local community on the Isle of Wight, adding
Longer term, this work has the potential to significantly improve services for our patients by reducing waiting times for test results and speeding up the transfer of important, possibly life-saving equipment or medication.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has cleared the UAV to fly beyond the line of sight with important cargo. Now that the system has been proven to work with the successful trial, the drone is on standby to deliver goods when needed by the NHS to the Isle of Wight, with the team and the CAA working to allow the drone to carry other types of medical supplies which will require further approvals.
While the number of journeys that the drone will take depends on the requirement of St Marys Hospital, the operation can carry out ten return flights between the airfields per day