EMED Group and Skyports Drone Services have completed a proof-of-concept project aimed at bringing innovation and sustainability benefits to medical courier services.

Launched in June 2023, the four-week trial was run with East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), an existing customer of EMED Group, which is one of the largest healthcare logistic providers to the NHS . The project successfully transported over 400 pathology samples between two ESNEFT sites, highlighting how regular and recurring drone operations can support traditional medical courier services to further improve services for patients and healthcare professionals.

Craig Smith, Group CEO of EMED Group, said: “This project is an important milestone highlighting innovative practices in the medical courier space. As a healthcare business, we are driven by our mission to improve the wellbeing of the communities we serve. This initiative is a great example of this. Not only does it provide tangible environmental benefits, but it also ensures that vital pathology samples and medical supplies are quickly and effectively transported between points of care with no risk to delays we often experience on the road network. All of this ultimately ensures our communities are that little bit healthier and those with medical needs are diagnosed more rapidly.”

Skyports and EMED trial

Deliveries were conducted using Skyports Drone Services’ Swoop Aero Kookaburra III aircraft

Deliveries were conducted using Skyports Drone Services’ Swoop Aero Kookaburra III aircraft, a fixed-wing aircraft with a 3kg payload. The drone is a tried and tested platform, which Skyports Drone Services has used on a number of medical delivery missions, flying tens of thousands of kilometres to date.

When compared to a standard diesel van (Vauxhall Combo 1.5l diesel) driving 77,080 miles across just four locations in one year, the saving against a single-drone operation is 22.72 tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum. The drone flies at approximately 100m above ground level to minimise impact on other airspace users. It operates in segregated airspace.

Alex Brown, Director of Skyports Drone Services, commented: “We’re at a really important stage in the scaling of medical drone logistics. Projects such as this one with EMED are helping pave the way for permanent operations by demonstrating just how safe, beneficial and effective drone services are – and the ease with which they can be implemented. Each delivery we complete ensures that a patient receives the care they need that bit quicker. At scale, the impact is transformational.”

Main image: Skyports/ Gabriel Reynolds