England’s health service will use drones to deliver vital chemotherapy drugs

Britain’s National Health Service has announced it will test drone delivery of vital chemotherapy drugs to the Isle of Wight. The panel has teamed up with Apian, a drone tech startup founded by former NHS doctors and former Google employees. Test flights are due to begin shortly, and it is hoped the system will reduce travel times for the drugs, cut costs and allow cancer patients to receive much more local treatment.

The Isle of Wight is an island two miles off the south coast of England with a population of just under 150,000. Due to the short shelf life of most chemotherapy drugs, drugs are either rushed to the island or patients take the ferry to the mainland. This journey can take up to four hours, while a drone flight can be from Queen Alexandra Hospital to St Mary’s Hospital in half an hour. Not long after, an additional pilot will take place in Northumbria to see if it is possible to deliver vital medical supplies on an ultra-short notice.

It’s not the first time drones have been used to deliver essential medicines faster than a traditional courier. Merck and drone company Volansi began testing cold-chain drug delivery to patients in rural North Carolina. Similarly, drone technology has helped transport blood supplies across Rwanda, deliver prescriptions to seniors in Florida and help with supply shortages during COVID-19.

Similarly, Britain’s Royal Mail has been testing the use of autonomous delivery drones to deliver parcels to remote areas. This includes supplying essential goods to the Isles of Scilly, Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides. Similar to the NHS process, Royal Mail said the use of drones would reduce carbon emissions and shorten delivery times, particularly in far-flung regions where infrastructure costs are too high to even consider.

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Russell Falcon

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