Drones will soon be used to directly transport vital drugs used for the treatment of cancer patients to the Isle of Wight as part of a new trial.
As first reported by Island Echo, in May of 2020, trial drone flights were conducted between Lee-on-Solent and Binstead Airfield to test the prospect of delivering PPE to the Island, with the Civil Aviation Authority giving the green light for unmanned flights to take place cross-Solent for the first time.
The new trial on behalf of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust and Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust will see drones transport the critical chemotherapy drugs between Queen Alexandra Hospital and St Mary’s – helping to avoid the delays currently experienced due to the coronavirus crisis and reduced ferry timetables.
Chemotherapy drugs, which cannot be manufactured by the Isle of Wight NHS Trust and are instead produced on the mainland, have a short shelflife of between and 8 and 24 hours meaning that timely delivery is essential.
Leicester-based drone company Skylift UAV has submitted an application for a Temporary Danger Area to be introduced across the Solent, stretching into Newport, to allow the drones to move safely through the airspace.
It’s expected that the introduction of the drone flights, which will initially operate on a 4-week trial basis, could see the transport time reduced from hours to just 32 minutes – allowing the drugs needed to be manufactured once patients are confirmed as able to receive treatment, therefore reducing wastage.
A Skylift spokesperson added:
“Reducing the delivery time to a 32-minute direct flight between the two hospitals would be transformative, as the chemotherapy could be manufactured once patients are confirmed as able to receive treatment, before being delivered on-demand.
“Beyond visual line of sight unmanned aircraft operations will be required and, in accordance with CAP 1915, such operations must be conducted within segregated airspace.”
It’s expected that the drone will fly 5 days per week, with 4 return flights per day, predominantly in daylight hours.