Montrose Plans to Start Medical Drone TrialsNeil Hardie
Scotland’s first drone port in Montrose will begin working with the NHS to transport medicines and equipment next month.
Mercury Drone Ports at Broomfield Park will start trials on beyond visual line of sight drone flights in March.
The first flights will transport medical equipment, samples and medicine to and from multiple healthcare facilities between Angus and Dundee, assisting with the response to Covid-19.
Mercury Drone Ports will provide a trials airspace area to support drone companies and conduct onshore and offshore drone flight trials.
Receiving funding from the UK Government’s £26.5 million Angus Fund as part of the Tay Cities Region Deal, Mercury Drone Ports is a public-private partnership between Angus Council and DTLX, supported by a number of local and national businesses.
It aims to establish Angus as a centre of excellence for the development of drone technologies in Scotland.
Angus Council leader David Fairweather said the council can play its part in transforming the health system in Angus through the project.
“This level of improvement could potentially allow life-saving treatment to be able to commence earlier.”
Mr Fairweather said it could help to reduce testing times, speeding up diagnoses for patients, all at a reduced cost to the NHS.
It would, he said, reduce the reliance on expensive taxi transportation that currently exists.
The council leader added: “As significant demands continue for Covid-19 testing, we are delighted to lead the way through innovative technologies to increase connectivity with our rural facilities, at a time the NHS requires greater support.”
The new environmentally friendly and efficient mode of transportation will provide the NHS with an on-demand collection and delivery service.
It will allow samples to be collected from local medical practices for analysis at larger hospitals quicker and more reliably than current transport alternatives.
NHS Tayside clinical laboratory manager Chris Hind said the project ensures a service that can be used for Covid-19 testing as well as other samples.
“This project will benefit our understanding of future opportunities to develop and improve our supply chain and help resilience in response to challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“We believe drone delivery services will help to improve diagnostic sample transport times across Angus rural areas, helping NHS Tayside to provide an equitable level of healthcare across Angus.”
Mercury Drone Ports will be based within Zero Four, a partnership between Angus Council and Crown Estate Scotland.
At the forefront of developing the drone port stands company DTLX, founded by a trio of Angus businessmen.
The new hub along with the drone port, forms part of Angus Council’s long-term plans to drive sustainable development across the Tay Cities region.
Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart said: “The UK Government is investing in Scotland’s first drone port to put Scotland at the forefront of innovation while bringing new jobs and investment to Angus.
“Drones have huge potential in Scotland, from connecting health services to remote communities, to helping maintain renewable energy installations, to assisting with Scottish aquaculture and environmental monitoring.”
The £26.5m Angus Fund will stimulate the Mercury Programme, which is Angus Council’s £1 billion partnership programme between government, public, private and community sectors.
Projects to be funded are being developed collaboratively with Angus Council and other local partners and are subject to UK Government approval.