Drones to deliver chemotherapy drugs for NHS

7th July 2022
Sheryl Miles

Apian, a healthcare drone startup company founded by trainee NHS doctors, have partnered with the NHS to pilot a scheme which will enable drones to carry medical supplies from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight.

The scheme is one of ten that Apian hopes to launch and will see chemotherapy drugs delivered from The Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth to the remote St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight. A second scheme in Northumbria is also set to be trialled.

This is a massive advancement for the delivery of chemotherapy drugs as they have a limited shelf life, and traditional transportation between the two hospitals could take up to four hours. This is because it relies on couriers, ferries, and taxis to get the vital medication to its destination. With a drone, it will take just 30 minutes.

The scheme was created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the logistics it caused surrounding the safe delivery of essential medication.

The scheme, Solent (so named because the drone covers the Solent area) has been trialled in three stages between August 2021 and July 2022 and is now ready to launch officially.

Maggie Oldham, Chief Executive, Isle of Wight NHS Trust said: “We are delighted to be part of this pioneering project researching a revolutionary way of transporting life-saving chemotherapy drugs. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have faced several challenges, including unprecedented supply chain and logistical demands worldwide and this led to us exploring different ways of working to ensure a safe and efficient service for our patients.”

But this isn’t the only time drones have provided much-needed assistance.

Drones have been used by the emergency services to aid search and rescue operations, and for potentially life-saving surveillance in remote disaster areas. They are also used to inspect infrastructure, providing situational awareness after an incident.

Even the Royal Mail is using drone technology to deliver parcels in Scotland, with plans to expand across the UK.

Whether you agree with drone technology or not, their speed of delivery and low emissions are starting to make them look like a good option for the future of delivery and surveillance.


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