UK Drone Supply CAELUS Venture Launches

UK Drone Delivery Network CAELUS Launches

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

CAELUS (Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland), a consortium led by AGS Airports in partnership with NHS Scotland to establish the UK’s premiere drone-based medical distribution network, closed £10.1 million in funding from the Future Flight Challenge at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) last month.

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Consortium members, stakeholders and politicians assembled at Glasgow Airport for the official launch, which featured a keynote speech from Scottish Government Public Health Minister Maree Todd as well as a number of exhibitions from consortium partners.

CAELUS comprises 16 partners, which include the University of Strathclyde, NATS, NHS Scotland and Skyports, all collaborating with the goal of providing Scotland’s first national drone network capable of delivering crucial medical supplies across the country, including to remote communities.

Following its acquisition of £1.5 million in January 2020, the consortium has developed drone landing stations for NHS sites throughout Scotland, as well as a virtual model of the network plan, bridging hospitals, pathology laboratories, distribution centers and GP surgeries nationwide. The project’s second phase will incorporate live flight trials and address hurdles to the safe operation of drones at scale in Scotland.

“We were delighted when we heard we were receiving the £10.1m funding from UKRI to move onto the next phase of the project,” said Fiona Smith, AGS Airports Group Head of Aerodrome Strategy and CAELUS Project Director. “The CAELUS project is set to revolutionize the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland. A drones network can ensure critical medical supplies can be delivered more efficiently, it can reduce waiting times for test results and, more importantly, it can provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities.

“As well as being able to undertake live flights we can begin to deploy the physical infrastructure needed to support the drones across Scotland. This will involve building prototype landing bases as well as digital and communication infrastructure. We will also work with local communities to ensure they understand why and how the drones will be used.”

Consortium member and drone services provider Skyports will conduct the project’s live flight trials, as it did with NHS Scotland in 2020 and 2021, flying over 14,000km in the region to date.

“We are incredibly excited to be the lead board for this high-end innovative project,” said Hazel Dempsey, NHS Grampian’s Program Lead for Innovation.”Our aim, from an NHS perspective, is to test the use of drone technology in urban, remote, rural and island landscapes. We want to test if using drones will improve important aspects of our logistics service, for example, to test the transportation of laboratory samples, blood products, chemotherapy, and medicine delivery. Ultimately, we want to explore if drone technology can speed up diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.

“This has the potential to improve services for those whose care is dependent on rail, ferry or airline timetables and help keep people at home where they can be supported by families and loved ones,” Dempsey continued. “This project intends to position the United Kingdom and NHS Scotland as a leader in the third revolution in the aviation industry.”

“This national, exciting ‘next stage’ program of work builds on the success of CAELUS 1 launch which focused on the West of Scotland,” added David Lowe, National Clinical Director for Innovation.

“Over the last four years, we’ve launched projects throughout Scotland which demonstrate the benefits that drone interventions can provide to individuals and communities – even in the hardest to reach areas,” said Alex Brown, Director of Skyports Drone Services. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we flew thousands of kilometers to deliver critical pathology samples for the NHS, helping countless patients receive their diagnoses and treatments 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.”

Read more about CAELUS and medical drone delivery:

Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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