Etc., the incubation team in BT Group’s Digital unit which is seeking to boost the businesses of the future, is working to “truly open up the skies for drones and create a safe, secure and effective pathway towards widescale drone flight”, according to Tom Guy, the unit’s managing director.

Speaking to FINN, Guy said: “With the right tools in place, we can facilitate smart city development, enhanced search and rescue capabilities for emergency services and faster delivery of essential items such as medical equipment.”

Project Skyway

Etc. is involved in Project Skyway, a scheme that aims to build the world’s longest automated drone ‘superhighway’.

The advancements drones can make in healthcare and medical delivery are starting to be explored, and a UK-first medical delivery drone trial has taken place, connecting two Midlands hospitals, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust sites in Coventry and Rugby.

This is the UK’s first over-land Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) trial, and it was completed in the heart of the UK, in complex airspace, close to urban areas.

Skyfarer Ltd, aerial logistics specialists based in Coventry with partner, Medical Logistics UK, began the BVLOS medical Drone Delivery trial in October 2022. The trial has been made possible using BT’s drone connectivity solution which enables efficient and safe drone mission communications, powered by EE, the UK’s best network.

The 32km drone route connects University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, a total of 130 flights and more than 30 hours’ worth of BVLOS flights were completed during the trial. More than 1,900km have been flown, including 220km by drone in a single day, without any faults or failures to report. This is the equivalent of flying from London to North Africa.

Key stepping-stone

Commenting on that project, Guy said: “Trials like the one completed by Skyfarer, are a key stepping-stone in enabling drones to advance beyond delivery of consumer goods – helping speed up transportation of key medical supplies and ultimately, saving lives.

“Research from BT has shown that over two thirds (68%) of the public believe that drones will have a positive impact on their life, and trials like these move us closer to addressing the ever-expanding need for hospitals to receive and transport time-sensitive medical supplies and samples faster.”
And Etc. is working on further such projects across the UK. “We’re currently in trial with our remote patient monitoring solution and easier ways for patients to navigate to the right care at the right time,” Guy explained.

“Feedback has been positive from both clinicians and patients. Patients feel reassured and supported that their condition and care are being monitored in a different way.”
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