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UK Space Agency backs scheme for healthcare drones to carry COVID samples

19th October 2020 about a 2 minute read

The UK Space Agency is backing a healthcare drone start-up founded by NHS staff to help in the response to COVID-19.

Apian was set up by two trainee doctors from Barts and The London working with Mid and South Essex NHS Innovation Fellows. It produces healthcare drones that can carry COVID-19 samples, test kits and PPE. 

The project is part of the NHS clinical entrepreneur programme. It plans to establish a network of ‘droneways in the sky’ for vital NHS supplies.

Speed up distribution

The aim is to speed up distribution, free up NHS staff, reduce unnecessary physical contact and minimise the risk of secondary transmission of the virus.

The scheme will be based at Broomfield Hospital, part of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation trust. And it will be supported by Anglia Ruskin University.

Science minister Amanda Soloway said: “The projects we are backing are fantastic examples of how our leading space scientists are supporting those directly on the frontline to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

Environmentally friendly

Christopher Law from Apian added: “There has never been a better time to create a faster, more dependable and environmentally friendly method of transporting medical supplies.

“We are confident we’ll be able to fly samples to labs more regularly, reliably and quickly, improving patient health outcomes.” 

Community transport

The Space Agency is also backing the Drivernet mobile app which uses satellite technology to make community transport easier and more affordable for patients who need transport from the same location at the same time. 

One aim is to help reduce the backlog of hospital appointments post-COVID, increase appointment attendance and lower costs to the NHS.