Chemotherapy will be delivered by drone and made available to Islanders right here on the Isle of Wight by the end of the year, if a 3-month trial is successful.
It has been announced that the Isle of Wight NHS Trust and Apian have begun a 3-month trial to optimise the delivery and access to chemotherapy for cancer patients. It is hoped that the trial will solve some of the logistics challenges experienced as a result of the pandemic by providing efficient transport solutions for medicinal supplies.
If the trial goes smoothly, the plan is for the first Isle of Wight patient to receive chemotherapy delivered by drone in November.
Before the Isle of Wight NHS Trust approves flying live chemotherapy for cancer patients, the University of Southampton, supported by Solent Transport, will test the impact of drone flight (e.g. vibration and temperature) on redundant medicine.
The UAVs – or drones – are electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft weighing 85kg, with a wingspan of 5m and capable of carrying up to 20kg of payload.
Unlike the drone previously seen flying across the Solent at the start of the pandemic, this drone will not require a runway. The aircraft will be able to fly directly from hospital to hospital – all without the need for a pilot, expensive aviation fuel and ground transport from an airfield to St Mary’s.
The drones will be based at the British Army’s Baker Barracks on Thorney Island near Portsmouth and will be flown by former RAF, Royal Navy and airline pilots. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has granted permission for the UAVs to fly in segregated airspace between Queen Alexandra Hospital’s helipad in Portsmouth, to Baker Barracks on Thorney Island and on to St Mary’s Hospital’s helipad here on the Isle of Wight.
Maggie Oldham, Chief Executive of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, says:
“We are delighted to be part of this pioneering project researching a revolutionary way of transporting life-saving chemotherapy drugs.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic we have faced several challenges, including unprecedented supply chain and logistical demands worldwide and this led to us exploring different ways of working to ensure a safe and efficient service for our patients. We are truly excited to be working in collaboration with Apian, our university sector partners, Solent Transport and colleagues at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust to develop an additional way to transport these essential medicines.
“Moving items by drone across the Solent will help to speed up the delivery of critical supplies from hospitals on the mainland to the Isle of Wight and will ensure our patients receive prescribed chemotherapy drugs efficiently”.
Article continues below this advertisement
Apian is funding the trial with a grant from UK Research and Innovation (Drone Solutions for COVID-19: Innovate UK Article 25 Strand) and a contract with Southampton University, supported by Solent Transport on behalf of the Solent Future Transport Zone (FTZ). No NHS funding is involved in this project.