An electric drone programme developed by NHS staff to safely transport Covid-19 test samples has received backing from the UK Space Agency.
Apian, part of the NHS clinical entrepreneur programme, is working to create secure air corridors for electric drones that could carry test-kits, Covid-19 samples and PPE.
The project aims to reduce the amount of physical contact with these items, minimising the risk of secondary transmission of the virus. It could also free-up NHS staff and avoid waiting on call-out couriers, according to the healthcare drone start-up.
The drone would use satellite-enable GPS and be based at Broomfield Hospital, Essex, which stands on a WW1 Royal Flying Corps Airfield. It will also be supported by the local Anglia Ruskin University as academic partner.
This is one of three projects the UK Space Agency is supporting in its backing of innovation using space-enabled technologies and services to support the NHS in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.
UK science minister, Amanda Solloway, said: “The efforts of the UK’s space sector to support our incredible NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic have been truly inspirational.
“The projects we are backing today are fantastic examples of how our leading space scientists are supporting those directly on the frontline to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
The other projects are a mobile app that uses satellite technology to aid those wishing to travel to coronavirus care providers by providing access to affordable community transport, and delivery of a remote platform for Earth Observation learning.
The projects will receive £1.3m following selection as part of a joint initiative between the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency, which has already provided one round of funding in July, worth £1.1m, to companies developing space-based solutions for issues created by Covid-19.