Drones are being used to carry Covid-19 test samples and other medical materials up to 40 miles (64km) across four locations in western Scotland. London drone firm Skyports has become the first operator to receive permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry diagnostic specimens by drone. Cargo – including test samples, medicine, personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing kits – is being transported by the drones in the Argyll & Bute region. A whole fleet of the drones are carrying up to 3kg of the supplies each, improving services for patients and healthcare staff in one of the UK's most remote areas. Drones can complete a journey that takes a whopping 36 hours by road and ferry to just 15 minutes, while increasing the frequency of pick-ups.
Police forces in the UK are trialing the use of drones to provide air support to forces on the ground in cases where deploying a helicopter or an aeroplane might be less practical. The National Police Air Services (NPAS), the police aviation service that assists territorial police forces in England and Wales, is evaluating how drone technology might complement its existing national fleet of helicopters and planes. First trials for the technology kicked off at West Wales Airport near Aberporth, and included various typical scenarios that the NPAS's fleet might be confronted with. Typically, police forces request NPAS to assist them with tasks such as searching for suspects or missing people, vehicle pursuits, public order, counter-terrorism and firearms incidents. The NPAS is evaluating how drone technology might complement its existing national fleet of helicopters and aeroplanes.
Stéphane Fymat, the head of that new business, said Honeywell expects the hardware and software market for urban air taxis, drone cargo delivery, and other drone businesses to reach $120 billion by 2030 and Honeywell's market opportunity would be about 20% of that. He declined to say how much of that market Honeywell was targeting to capture, adding only that the unit has hundreds of employees with many engineers. Honeywell doesn't build drones itself but provides autonomous flight controls systems and aviation electronics. The new business creation comes as the coronavirus pandemic creates a surge of interest in drone deliveries; Fymat said it's accelerating the drone cargo delivery programs of some of its partners. Some of Honeywell's customers include Intel-backed Volocopter, Slovenia-based small aircraft maker Pipistrel, which is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for cargo delivery, and UK-based Vertical Aerospace, which has test flown a prototype vehicle last year that can carry 250 kilograms and fly at 80 kilometers an hour.
The UK government is to fund a trial of drone-based deliveries of blood and other medical supplies in Tanzania. The goal is to radically reduce the amount of time it takes to send stock to health clinics in the African nation by road or other means. The scheme involves Zipline, a Silicon Valley start-up that began running a similar service in Rwanda in October. Experts praised that initiative but cautioned that "cargo drones" are still of limited use to humanitarian bodies. The Department for International Development (Dfid) has not said how much money will be invested in the Tanzanian effort or for how long.