back to article Unmanned drones to slash NHS delivery times to one-fifth of road 'n' rail transport

Remote-control drones are to be used to deliver coronavirus testing kits to a remote Scottish hospital – and they're being flown outside of the operators' direct line of sight. Backed by the local NHS trust, drone firm Skyports will fly drones between the Isle of Mull and Oban, the closest town on the Scottish mainland. "Our …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Payload?

    The article didn't say how much these drones can carry.

    However, this use maked far more sense than pizza dilivery or dropping an amazon packet on your roof.

    Perhaps they can fit them with a dart gun so that people can be vaccinated from the air before they can run into the hills to hide.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. osakajin Silver badge

      Re: Payload?

      That joke is in poor taste. Assume you are joking?

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Payload?

        Less a joke than an observation of the direction governments and the people they are meant to serve are going in.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Payload?

          Less a joke than an observation of the direction fuckwitted anti-vaxxers have already taken.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Payload?

      Let me google that for you...

      https://wingcopter.com/technology

      45 km range with 6 kg (max payload) @150km/h top speed and can cope with 15m/s winds and 20m/s gusts (about Force 7, gusting 8, so able to deal with a good blow by sea-side standards)

  2. Bob Dunlop

    Um drone deliverys to the Isle or Wight have be trialed with the first flight on the 9th of May.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52419705

    https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2020/05/drone-trial-delivery.page

    Fixed wing UAV with a 100kg payload capacity, landing on a grass runway from the news footage I saw.

    Not sure is it out of line of sight, theres a "safety pilot" at each end of the link and the flight is protected by a temporary (90 day) "danger area" exclusion zone.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Yes, lands on the Island at Binstead, oddly, which is in the midst of an area of MAMBA so no great loss if anything happens there even though it is then a nightmare by car/bike to St Mary's hospital. On the mainland they seem to be using Lee-on-Solent which gives them lots of flexibility on flight planning.

      Quite impressed with the design as it seems to be very much based on the idea of goof capacity/minimal frills with an excellent view from the camera in the tailplane in case someone has to step in and take control.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I assume MAMBA does not mean the slithering thing?

        1. Kevin Johnston

          Miles and Miles (of) Bugger All....or at least as close to that as you can get on an island 23 miles side to side and 13 north south

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Ah, so just east of Bumfuck Egypt

        2. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Only one species of mamba slithers; the others climb.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. G R Goslin

    Seems to me

    It seems to me to be a far better, and cheaper solution would be to send the stuff by Royal Mail. It's for sure that if the Post won't get through it's a foregone conclusion that a drone isn't going to make it, either. Seems to me the usual endless search for ways to spend (waste) the money. In any case, I don't recollect a road 'n rail connection to the mentioned location that the drone system could be five times faster than.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Seems to me

      Likewise, how often is a delivery so urgent that they need an unmanned drone? Depending on it's maximum payload, it may actually be a very rare occurrence that payload limit plus urgency plus weather conditions actually makes this a viable solution.

      Sending CV-19 tests over seems like a marketing gimmick. These are sort of items that in the current situation should be hand. There should not b e a need for an emergency delivery.

    2. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Seems to me

      I don't recollect a road 'n rail connection to the mentioned location

      Unless you include the CalMac ferry in the road bit there isn't either a road or rail connection to Craignure from Oban. Maybe they should build a tunnel instead...

  5. macjules Silver badge
    Flame

    .. deliver coronavirus testing kits to a remote Scottish hospital

    Looks like another bloody excuse for Dominic Cummings to go on holiday to me.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: .. deliver coronavirus testing kits to a remote Scottish hospital

      > Looks like another bloody excuse for Dominic Cummings to go on holiday to me.

      "No officer, of course I haven't gone to Oban for a holiday. Actually I'm checking my eyesight using this beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone..."

      [Icon: if he'd gone to an optician he'd have been asked to cover up one eye at a time.]

  6. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    > Likewise, how often is a delivery so urgent that they need an unmanned drone?

    Now that organ donation is presumed rather than consented to, potentially there is an urgent collection every time someone dies of something other than disease or old-age in a remote hospital?

    1. Nodrog

      A remote hospital is highly unlikely to have the personnel, expertise, facilities or equipment for organ extraction and subsequent action.

      About the only use for drones here would be urgent laboratory specimens and even then the patient will probably have been transferred to the mainland before the results were known.

      The whole thing smacks of that old adage - "A solution looking for a problem".

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        "A solution looking for a problem".

        That is exactly what it looks like, Skyports is an Air Taxi start up with a drone delivery service on the side, Declan Ryan of Ryanair fame is on the board with a bunch of VCs in tow. Makes one wonder what kind of a deal has been done? It has the looks of a PR exercise.

        1. jake Silver badge

          "It has the looks of a PR exercise."

          To me it has the looks of a company siphoning loot from the NHS Trust because everybody is busy green-lighting anything that says Covid-19 on it in the name of being seen doing something.

      2. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        > A remote hospital is highly unlikely to have the personnel, expertise, facilities or equipment for organ extraction and subsequent action.

        100KG load on the larger drone - just stuff the whole body in. Fly above a couple of thousand feet and no refrigeration required!!

  7. jake Silver badge

    Out of curiosity ...

    Has anybody done a TCO cost/benefit analysis on this?

    Or is that considered politically incorrect, because Covid-19?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Out of curiosity ...

      Not 'politically incorrect' but 'politically convenient'. The UK government is taking every opportunity to hand contracts to their favourite businesses without tender or statutory review. This is how we have the delightful situation in which a big financial accounting auditor is responsible for designing and implementing drive-through Covid-19 test facilities, with unsurprisingly poor results.

      Still, at least this time they didn't outsource the job to a ferry company with no ferries.

  8. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I'm curious to know what it has by way of sensing other aircraft

    The CAA are pretty keen at the moment to have everything carry Electronic Conspicuity transcievers, but there's an awful lot of GA stuff out there that doesn't (including, I guess, pretty much every drone).

    Still, one can hope that the GA pilots read the NOTAMs.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: I'm curious to know what it has by way of sensing other aircraft

      There are pretty much no aircraft over Mull. They have one wee airstrip especially for their one wee hospital. Occasional fast RAF jets to scare the sheep.

      What happens on Mull mulls in Mull.

      ETA: https://www.isle-of-mull.net/locations/villages/salen/glenforsa-airfield/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm curious to know what it has by way of sensing other aircraft

        They do have eagles...

      2. Alister Silver badge

        Re: I'm curious to know what it has by way of sensing other aircraft

        Last time I was on Mull, I had the bejesus scared out of me by a Lockheed Hercules appearing round the edge of a hill at 0 feet (or that's what it felt like).

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: I'm curious to know what it has by way of sensing other aircraft

          Back in the late '60s I was taking an early morning golf lesson at Sunnyvale Municipal. I was getting ready to tee off on the 10th when four Phantoms screamed into view from roughly the south east, at about tree-top level. Mid-runway, they pointed their noses straight up & kicked in the afterburners and kept going up until out of view ... in perfect finger-four. They repeated the maneuver eight or ten times over the next couple hours. Practicing for the Moffett Field Air Show the following weekend. (I found out later they were refueling off the coast.)

          Now keep in mind, Sunnyvale Muni is right at the end Moffett's runway, so most of us were used to aircraft flying low overhead on a regular basis ... usually it was Orions (P-3) practicing takeoffs & landings, occasional small trainers and cargo planes, and sometimes even a couple of F4s would grace us with an overflight. But four of the things, about 150 feet up, at roughly 650 MPH just as I was addressing my ball was somewhat surprising to say the least :-)

          No, this wasn't the Navy's Blue Angels ... they were still flying F11s at the time, and practiced later in the same day.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few local details...

    Posting as AC because of insider knowledge of the hospital in Craignure.

    The hospital is very small, normally just five beds (three real beds and two A&E trolleys), most of which are usually empty. Since the panic began they have had access to a few extra beds just in case, and one of the original beds has become a dedicated isolation bed.

    CalMac reduced the ferries to an absolute minimum very quickly, to isolate the island. There have been two confirmed cases of the virus on Mull: the first was an islander who came home from holiday slightly ill, recovered in hospital and went home. The second was a man who drive his family up from England to isolate on Mull, fell ill, was treated at Craignure and was then moved to Oban where he sadly died.

    The BBC have been reporting that these drones were to rush urgent supplies of PPE to the hospital staff. There has never been any shortage of PPE at the hospital and they have plenty of supplies. The staff think that they may be intended to send Covid tests to a lab in Glasgow via Oban railway station (next to the ferry terminal). Any tests carried by drone will need to be transported from wherever the drone lands and transported down to the station anyway. It is just possible that the drone may save a few minutes on an overall journey of several hours, but only if the train timetable fits.

    The staff don't understand the need for these drones as they don't have, and don't expect to have, any need for urgent transmission to the mainland or supplies from the mainland. The weather in that area means that the ferries will be running long after the drones will have been grounded, so the ferries are a much more reliable option.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: A few local details...

      The purpose is a trial to see how it works out. There is a trial for the Isle of Wight too, but their weather is generally better than is normal in the north west of Scotland.

  10. Chris the bean counter

    What if it is lost in a storm?

    No way are they going to risk delivering organ transplants or short of supply drugs by such an unproven method.

    I expect RAF helps out in such an emergency

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021