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Covid-19: NHS trials drones to carry tests and equipment

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image copyrightMid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust
image captionA hybrid drone is being trialled - it has the rotors of a typical drone and the wings of a plane, making it very good at flying long distances

An NHS drone is being used to carry Covid-19 samples, test kits and protective equipment between hospitals.

The trial in Essex aims to establish a network of secure air corridors for drones to navigate via GPS.

They will initially fly between Broomfield Hospital, Basildon Hospital and the Pathology First Laboratory in Basildon.

The project is being funded through a share of a £1.3m grant from the UK Space Agency.

image copyrightPA
image captionThe drones will initially be flying between Broomfield Hospital, Basildon Hospital and the Pathology First Laboratory in Basildon

Using drones aims to avoid courier call-out waiting times, free up NHS staff, reduce unnecessary physical contact and minimise the risk of secondary transmission of the virus.

The first phase will see the drone fly in and around the hospital grounds without carrying any items, eventually extending off-site on pre-agreed flight paths in partnership with the Civil Aviation Authority.

Mr Law said: "We are confident that by setting up a medical drone delivery service, we'll be able to fly samples to labs more regularly, reliably and quickly, improving patient health outcomes."

image copyrightMid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust
image captionThe trial is being funded by a grant from the UK Space Agency

The drones can carry a maximum weight of 2kg (4lbs) and fly about 60 miles (96km). They will fly at 300ft (90m) above ground level and are designed to withstand harsh weather.

The project, founded by healthcare drone start-up Apian, is supported by Anglia Ruskin University.

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