Clydebank’s hospital has teamed up with Glasgow Airport to conduct live flight trials in a bid to deliver the UK’s first national medical distribution network using drones.

Live flying took place between the Golden Jubilee and the international airport as part of Project CAELUS – a scheme led by a consortium 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.

CAELUS (Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland), is partly funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Flight Challenge and brings together 16 partners, including the University of Strathclyde, Skyports Drone Services, NATS and NHS Scotland.

Following the trial flights, Karen Bell, Joint Innovation Lead for CAELUS for the NHS explained: "We are delighted to have had a successful flight trial here in the West Coast of Scotland.

“Years of preparation with all our partners have taken us to this point.

“We are well positioned to participate in this drone trial because of our vast geographical area of island and remote populations. “This work has the potential to greatly improve our services closer to home. Now we can take the time to reflect on this experience and instil the improvements required."

Since January 2020, the CAELUS consortium has designed drone landing stations for NHS sites across Scotland and developed a virtual model (digital twin) of the proposed delivery network which connects hospitals, pathology laboratories, distribution centres and GP surgeries across Scotland.

Fiona Smith from AGS Airports Group – who own Glasgow Airport - said: “These flight trials are an important step towards the integration of drones into modern airspace and enabling the safe use of drones at scale within Scotland’s airspace.

“The input from all partners has resulted in a high-quality safety case for the flights undertaken in a busy airport environment which can be transposed for other sites in future.

“It has only been possible because of the hard work of every consortium member.

“The CAELUS project is set to revolutionise the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland.

“A drone 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.

“We are delighted to have conducted this live flight trial and look forward to carrying out more in the coming months.”

The live flight trials were operated by CAELUS consortium member Skyports Drone Services.

The UK-based operator is an experienced provider of drone delivery, survey and monitoring services and has a long history of operating medical drone deliveries, including the first drone deliveries with the NHS.