Medical Drone Delivery: Standard Operating Procedures to support healthcare practitioners' adoption.
The Drone Office is honoured and proud to be part of AiResponse, one of 14 selected teams as part of UKRI “Drone Solutions for COVID-19” Competition. The consortium, led by medical packaging company Intelsius, seeks to enable UK Inter-site Medical Delivery Drone Operations and meeting the logistical and operational challenges presented by SARS-CoV-2.
Standard Operating Procedures
The Drone Office will develop a first set of Standard Operating Procedures for routine drone-enabled delivery operations through collaboration with hospitals and AiResponse consortium partners.
The key objectives of this first set of SOPs are:
Safety and compliance: meeting the safety and compliance requirements of both aviation and medical regulators is a pre-requisite to commercialisation. SOPs serve that purpose and are well-recognized tools to achieve conformity and adequacy in following safety, compliance, operational and quality requirements.
Hospital management and practitioners trust and acceptance: rigorous and documented processes transform disruptive, unfamiliar technologies into accessible innovation. These SOPs aim to present complex, innovative operations in simple and clear language, easily accessible to non-experts. In addition, these SOPs sets operating protocols, equipment, infrastructure, medical packaging, identity checks requirements to maintain the quality, integrity and traceability of medical products and promote medical best practices. As a result, these SOPs will facilitate the onboarding of healthcare practitioners, hospital management and operational teams.
Scalability: from the inset, these SOPs envisage that hospitals and care centres will eventually procure drone delivery services from third parties, similarly to their use of specialised courier services - only the courier operates a fleet of aerial drones rather than, or perhaps in cooperation with, ground-based vehicles such as cars and ambulances. These SOPs provide the right framework to implement specific flight trials and can be picked-up by any hospital to scale-up to routine operations, independently of specific UAS solutions or service provider, with a range of supplies onboard, and with consistent quality management and performance.
Engagement with hospital teams to meet real needs
The consortium led by Intelsius puts the needs of end-users at the core of the project, involving real healthcare professionals and environments at every stage of the research and testing.
Working closely with the NHS as part of a wider consortium of academic, tech, and local government partners, the team will be developing, testing, and implementing novel solutions to address the challenges facing the NHS in these unprecedented times when delivering covid-19 swabs, test samples and medical supplies and will strive to develop faster, safer, and more economically viable transport solutions.
Drones have the potential to create value for patients, healthcare providers and medical professionals in terms of availability, speed, frequency, and flexibility of access to medicines, medical products, as well as fast-tracked delivery of sample tests for analysis at the lab.
Breaking down those logistical barriers can improve access to care for all patients including those isolated or vulnerable, provide better health outcomes, and ultimately improve life expectancy.
In addition, the potential benefits in terms of gains in time, cost savings, logistical precision, can drive efficiency gains within the healthcare system, as well as facilitating healthcare providers’ work through easy-to-use, digitized ordering processes.
Finally, in the particular context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis highlighted the potential benefit of using drones to meet the logistical and operational challenges of hospitals and the broader care system, while supporting social distancing, breaking chains of infection and allowing healthcare teams to focus their time and energy on patient care rather than critical supply shortages and logistical challenges.
A diverse consortium bringing together industry, academia, hospitals and local communities
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 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 draws on 20 years’ professional background in Technology and Defence & Aerospace industries within the advancement of autonomous systems. The Drone Office has direct experience of BVLOS flight testing within Europe and has been working with medical end users on medical drone delivery for over a year, 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 conduct test 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 conduct test 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.
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 www.ukri.org