A few weeks ago, a town in North Carolina began employing drone deliveries amid the health crisis. The initiative was lauded by residents as it provided a platform for them to receive essential goods without any physical contact with another person. Now a town called Oban in Scotland is conducting a two-week trial wherein it will use drones to ferry supplies over to medical personnel in the island of Mull. Local healthcare officials hope to overcome the logistical challenges presented by the coronavirus outbreak.

The cargo will include COVID-19 test kits as well as medical supplies. Overseeing the project is Joanna Macdonald, Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership chief officer. Meanwhile, the equipment will be supplied by Skyports – a company that specialises in drone deliveries – to ship the items from Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban to Iona Community Hospital in Craignure on Mull.

Normally, the 10-mile journey roughly takes around six hours one-way via ground and sea. In contrast, the drones should be able to make the trip in approximately 15 minutes only. This method evidently brings "considerable savings in terms of time and resource" in addition to lesser exposure to potential COVID-19 infections.

According to a statement from Macdonald, "the use of drones provides real opportunities to improve services and will help enable quicker diagnosis for our patients." The drones that will be used are developed by Wingcopter. Skyports will then use a special management system to keep track of its unmanned fleet with the help of aerospace company Thales.

Moreover, the local government is apparently supported by NHS Scotland with the approval of the Civil Aviation Authority and Department of Transport of the United Kingdom. It was not specified if the drone will remain airborne and just lower the package down or if it will land and a representative will need to detach the cargo container manually.

Medical supply drone
A drone made for medical supply deliveries is put on display at Berlin's Charite university hospital as part of the German government's drone action plan Photo: AFP / Odd ANDERSEN

Data shared by Johns Hopkins University shows that the U.K. has already recorded 262,547 COVID-19 cases with 36,996 deaths. Drone deliveries are not exactly new technology as multiple companies have promoted the idea even before the pandemic started. However, it is perhaps considered as a resourceful initiative considering the current situation.