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Vital medical supplies are to be flown by drone between Oban and Mull in a week-long trial due to start on May 25, it has been revealed.
Skyports, a drone delivery service based in London, has linked up with the council-run Oban Airport to get NHS kit from the hospital in Oban to the one at Craignure.
The week-long trial, held during the working week and in daylight hours only, is designed to help provide front-line staff on Mull with the necessary equipment to do their jobs safely, said the council.
It will also help keep hard-to-reach communities provided with essential medical care, it added.
Skyports plans to fly its delivery drones ‘beyond visual line of sight’.
The council described the flight path as a ’17km route south from Oban and then north-west to the north coast of the Isle of Mull’.
It said: ‘The proposed airspace for the trials is out with the flight restricted zone airspace around the airport, however during the trial period, Oban Airport will relay safety messages to any aircraft in the vicinity.
‘This initiative is in direct response to the UK Government’s call for help to address and mitigate the health impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.’
Oban Airport staff will provide safety support to Skyports, which says drones increase the ‘frequency and speed’ of transporting medical products.
Skyports has offices in Singpore and Los Angeles and already uses drones to fly ‘high-value and perishable cargo’ such as vaccines, medicine and organs.
Recently, Skyports chief executive officer, Duncan Walker, said: ‘The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the role that unmanned aircraft applications can play in keeping the flow of goods moving, especially medical products, limiting human contact and supplying hard-to-reach communities.’
It is not the first time Oban Airport has been involved in drones.
Oban Airport has worked in partnership with the nearby Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) which has a department dedicated to drone research.
Councillor Aileen Morton, leader of Argyll and Bute Council, commented: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has brought distinct challenges to rural communities and island communities. Community spirit, determination and innovation is helping overcome them.
‘We’re delighted that the airport is involved in trialling a project aimed at changing the way health services in disperse communities are linked together.
‘We’re already using technology to provide health advice and information remotely. Use of drones could assist vital equipment to be transferred more efficiently and effectively.’