O2 is collaborating with UAV logistics operator Skyfarer to develop blood delivery by drone.

The effort - which is part of a wider consortium - will also focus on the delivery of COVID-19 supplies. Other organisations involved include Cranfield University, drone manufacturer Phoenix Wings, and unified traffic management solutions provider Altitude Angel.

According to O2, the six-month initiative has received authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority for extended visual line of sight operations. It is also working with Ofcom to provide SIM cards, enabling the use of 4G and 5G mobile devices in relation to the project. This will allow for a “safe and reliable real-time control mechanism, making it possible for drones to fly safely over long ranges.”

Speaking in a recently-published statement, a spokesperson for O2 said: “The consortium forms the first medical drone delivery network of its type in the heart of England, with plans to create a national infrastructure, enabling same-day delivery with autonomous drones in the future.

“It aims to pave the way for harnessing UAVs, in order to revolutionise the provision of healthcare services, and develop smarter, safer, greener, supply chains.”

Elliot Parnham, Skyfarer founder and CEO, said: “A big problem needs a big team. To realise the potential of autonomous drones in medical logistics, our industry-leading partners bring world-class, innovative solutions to the problem of enabling routine drone logistics.

“Our future flight challenge project will bring medical drone delivery to the UK and make a lasting difference to the capabilities of logistics within a nation.”

The consortium aims to have “fully operational routine medical deliveries” taking place by 2022. The project is being funded by Innovate UK.

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Author: Philip Mason