UK drones project to deliver COVID-19 medical supplies gets share of £33m government funding

Saleha Riaz
·2 min read
Editorial On 23 February 2020, Bangkok, Thailand Delivery drone flying in New york city
Twenty winners will receive a share of £7m funding from a wider £33.5m fund that is meant to be divided among 48 projects. Photo: Getty Images

Projects using technology to support the fight against COVID-19 were among the first set of winners announced by the government, that will receive a funding from a pot of £33m ($43m) set aside for “ground-breaking aviation projects.”

The 20 winners will receive a share of £7m funding from the fund, which is meant to be divided among a total of 48 projects.

The first list of projects that will receive the cash, range from the development of drones that can deliver COVID-19 medical supplies to remote areas, to technology that enables remote inspections of infrastructure and construction sites, removing the need for workers to potentially be put at risk.

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One such company is Apian, which is building a drone to deliver medical supplies like COVID-19 blood and swab tests between NHS hospitals and labs, protecting NHS staff and the public from coronavirus transmission.

Droneprep, Consortiq and Windracers will use unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver critical PPE and Covid-19 testing kits to vulnerable, rural communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

MediDrone will develop a network of small drones following paths between medical facilities, acting as high-speed shuttles for small medical packages. This will improve the delivery speed of critical medication, and limit human contact with supplies to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to vulnerable patients, the government said in a statement.

The funding is “part of efforts to build back better from COVID-19 and support innovative new enterprises,” it added.

The investment comes from the Future Flight Challenge, which aims to increase mobility, reduce reliance on road travel to improve road congestion, and increase UK manufacturing opportunities.

Business and industry minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said the projects “demonstrate how using the latest and most cutting-edge aviation technologies can step up our response to the coronavirus pandemic, help us build back better and cement our well-earned reputation for research and development excellence, while creating hundreds of new jobs.”

Other companies that will receive funding include Dock-to-Dock, which is developing a project to deliver goods between Bristol and Cardiff using a hydrogen-powered electric aircraft, and Napkin, which is looking to pave the way for low and zero carbon short-haul flights for passengers around the UK.

More winners are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

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