Updated: Oct 7
We are excited to be part again of project CAELUS, a consortium led by AGS Airports in partnership with NHS Scotland to deliver what will be the UK’s first medical distribution network using drones has secured £10.1 million in funding from the Future Flight Challenge at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
It is the second successful round of funding for the CAELUS (Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland) consortium which brings together 16 partners. Together they are working to deliver what will be the first national drone network that can transport essential medicines, bloods and other medical supplies throughout Scotland including to remote communities.
NHS Scotland has said it will bring its “Once for Scotland” approach to the project, the second phase of which will involve live flight trials and removing remaining barriers to safely using drones at scale within Scotland’s airspace.
Fiona Smith, AGS Airports Group Head of Aerodrome Strategy and CAELUS Project Director, said: “The CAELUS project is set to revolutionise 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.
“The second round of funding from UKRI will allow our consortium to undertake live flights and 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.”
Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “This innovative project will help position Scotland at the forefront of drone technologies to deliver essential healthcare supplies to people more quickly and provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities.
“It also demonstrates an effective industry partnership showing that when businesses, universities and public sector work together they can deliver for Scotland and outperform the competition, attracting welcome funding at this challenging time.”
Professor David Lowe, National Clinical Director, Scottish Health and Industry Partnership (SHIP), Scottish Government said: “The CAELUS project is an exemplar of the large-scale innovation projects Scotland is capable of delivering. Through the NHS innovation test bed infrastructure and by taking a ‘Once for Scotland’ approach, we can determine the viability, scalability and efficiency of the technology, and its potential impact across the NHS.
“This fusion of skills and knowledge is vital to accelerate the pace of adaption of innovative technologies and support our work to strengthen health and social care innovation in Scotland.”
Dr Andy Keen, Clinical Lead for Innovation, NHS Grampian said: "NHS Grampian is proud to be the lead board for NHS Scotland on CAELUS and we very much look forward to working with our sister health boards across Scotland, and our industry partners over the next couple of years.”
"All the participating boards will make a significant contribution to this important evaluation about care delivery in Scotland. Our local Innovation HUB will be exploring how drone technology could be usefully used as a way of delivering care to people who live in urban, remote, rural and island locations.
“Our region is possibly uniquely positioned to test this because it covers such a vast geographical area with an approximately 50/50 spilt of urban and rural populations.
Live flight trials will be operated by CAELUS consortium member Skyports. The UK-based drone services provider is an experienced operator of medical and dangerous goods cargo flights. The company was instrumental to early trial flights with NHS Scotland in 2020 and 2021, completing over 12,000 of flight hours in the region to date.
Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director at UK Research and Innovation said “With the potential to quickly deliver medicines, bloods and other medical supplies on demand, the CAELUS project laid the groundwork for revolutionizing health care access across Scotland. We know these technologies can change people’s lives, but it’s important we work with communities to understand how they will best benefit from them. By working with local communities and taking a national approach CAELUS 2 will strengthen heath care provision in Scotland.”
The CAELUS consortium comprises:
AGS Airports Limited NHS Scotland
NATS University of Strathclyde
Connected Places Catapult ANRA Technologies UK
Cellnex UK Commonplace Digital
DGP Intelsius Dronamics
Plane Finder Skyports
The Drone Office Trax International
About THE DRONE OFFICE
THE DRONE OFFICE is a consultancy and service company. We offer clients independent, solution-agnostic expertise. We advocate safe and innovative roadmaps. Drones are part of digital transformation. So beyond safety, our objective is to help clients transform disruption into a competitive advantage and value creation. Equally important, we share with clients a vision of technology with a sense of purpose, that truly adds value for everyone. Our services cover building and updating our client’s inhouse expertise and foundation knowledge; assessing the state-of-the-art in their industry; pilot-project design and planning; support to the selection of technologies, suppliers, and partners; project management; scaling-up from pilot-project to routine operations.
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.
UKRI works with the government to invest over £7 billion a year in research and innovation by partnering with academia and industry to make the impossible, possible. Through the UK’s nine leading academic and industrial funding councils, it creates knowledge with impact. For more information visit www.ukri.org.