top of page

Medical drone delivery SOPs for compliance, end-user onboarding, and scalability

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

The publication is available upon request here.

The Drone Office completed its first set of “Standard Operating Procedures for inter medical sites delivery operations” as part of project AiResponse.

SOPs are a well-known technique to achieve compliance, conformity, quality and repeatability. They act as a training tool as well for hospital teams. The SOPs do not require prior expert knowledge and can be picked up by any medical site’s team. They provide a structured framework so that end-users understand exactly what they’ve got to do at each step of the journey, from the first flight trials to routine medical drone delivery operations. The SOPs objectives are compliance, end users onboarding, then repeatability and scalability.

First, we identified with the hospitals’ teams on how they would use the service if it were available here and now. As a result, the SOPs consider a range of medical payload:

  • Sterile surgery instruments, sterile surgical implants

  • Medicines and pharmaceutical products, which can be toxic substances but transported here in quantities below the excepted quantity threshold under the dangerous goods regulations

  • Blood samples for covid-19 testing, covid-19 swab test, and more broadly biological samples, to speed up turn-around time of test results. These are classified as dangerous goods as infectious substances.

We then identified the practical challenges to integrate routine drone delivery within the hospital environment, and developed solutions. The SOPs focus in particular on 3 areas:

  • The regulatory compliance with both UAS & aviation regulations , under the oversight of the Civil Aviation Authority CAA; medical & healthcare regulations, such as the Good Distribution Practices or GDP under the oversight of the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency MHRA; guidelines by WHO and ICAO when transporting dangerous goods, and related authorisation by the CAA

  • The practical, physical integration within the hospital’s environment and procedures

  • The ease of use of the technologies for healthcare teams to accelerate their adoption.

About Project AiResponse

AiResponse is one of 14 selected teams in UKRI programme “Drone Solutions for COVID-19”.

The consortium is led by medical packaging company DGP Intelsius. It brings together a mix of industrial companies (DGP Intelsius, Blue Bear Systems Research, Herotech8, The Drone Office) and academia (Cranfield University on the aerospace side, and King’s College London on the pharmaceutical side).

More importantly, the team strived to put the needs of end-users and communities at the heart of the project, and is extremely grateful to have onboard Milton Keynes NHS Foundation Trust Hospital, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Milton Keynes Borough Council.

AiResponse Project’s objectives

AiResponse objective is to pave the way for routine integration of medical drone delivery between hospitals and medical sites.

Its vision is to provide better health outcomes, and improve care to patients. This vision would be achieved by developing an alternative logistics solution offering improved availability, speed, frequency and predictability of transport for critical supplies between medical sites.

The service would also help medical teams in their daily lives, by providing an easy to use, flexible service, with ordering as friendly as taxi drive services on smartphones.

It would also benefit the organisation themselves, by delivering cost savings and efficiency gains.

AiResponse consortium

  • Intelsius are proud to be leading the project. We are a leading medical temperature-controlled packaging company. Our packaging is currently in heavy demand in the fight against COVID-19, and you can learn more about our COVID-19 packaging solutions here. In addition, our teams have worked on the vaccine drone delivery project backed by UNICEF in Vanuatu.

  • HEROTECH8 is a robotics start-up developing automated drone-in-a-box or drone docking station technology, enabling drones to be automatically deployed, flown, recovered and recharged without the need for an on-site pilot. HEROTECH8’s team has successfully deployed our drone-in a-box technology in the U.K., U.S. and across Europe.

  • Blue Bear Systems Research is a well-established, wholly owned SME and pioneer in the field of unmanned aircraft, sensing systems development and autonomy. Blue Bears diverse technical portfolio includes managed service provision, systems integration and design, development and demonstration of unmanned systems technology, remote and automated data acquisition, A.I. data analytics and drone swarming.

  • The Drone Office is a consultancy and service company specialising in autonomous systems. We offer clients independent, solution-agnostic domain expertise on technologies, regulations, and business cases. The Drone Office is a drone operator approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. It has experience of BVLOS flight testing within Europe and has been working with medical end users on medical drone delivery, helping to bridge the gap between the two ecosystems.


  • Cranfield University. As a specialist postgraduate university, Cranfield’s world-class expertise, large-scale facilities and unrivalled industry partnerships are creating leaders in technology and management globally.

  • King's College London. King’s Innovation Institutes work to encourage innovation and create impact. Whether by accelerating the translation of health research into a marketable products, helping turn our research into actionable policy or facilitating collaborations between the university and the cultural sector.

Hospitals and city council

  • Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is supporting the consortium by giving access to real users and providing a real life environment to the targeted flights. The insight into the NHS’s current processes is a vital element to the success of the project.

  • Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is supporting the consortium by giving access to real users and providing a real life environment to the targeted flights. The insight into the NHS’s current processes is a vital element to the success of the project.

  • Milton Keynes Council is offering Government and logistical support throughout the project, providing further insight into how the NHS operates and offering administrative support.

About UKRI

UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. For more information visit

About the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to bring together the UK’s world leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time. The fund was created to provide funding and support to UK businesses and researchers, part of the government’s £4.7 billion increase in research and development over the next 4 years. It was designed to ensure that research and innovation takes centre stage in the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. It is run by UK Research and Innovation.


bottom of page