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Drone projects to deliver Covid-19 supplies receive share of £33 million in UK government funding

Drone projects to deliver Covid-19 supplies including PPE and testing kits across the country receive share of £33 million in UK government funding

  • One winner will deliver PPE and Covid tests to rural Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
  • Today 20 companies have been announced which will share £7.35 million
  • Nine of these are specifically tailored to help with the national coronavirus effort

The British Government has announced more than £33million in funding will go to drone companies, with many of them using the flying machines to fight Covid-19. 

Today, a total of 20 companies have been announced which will receive a share of £7.35 million.  

Nine of these are tailored to help with the coronavirus effort, to aid in the rapid delivery of critical items while minimising exposure to the disease. 

Of the £7.34million total funding, the Covid-related projects received £2.34million. 

In total, 34 projects are set to receive a share of £30 million, while 14 others focused specifically on coronavirus response, will receive a share of a further £3.5 million.

The other winners are set to be announced soon, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

  

One initiative which received funding is the Cornish Drone Airbridge which will use drones to deliver PPE and Covid tests to rural communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (stock)

Pictured, some of the drone projects that have received funding from the UK government for initiatives centred around Covid-19

Pictured, some of the drone projects that have received funding from the UK government for initiatives centred around Covid-19 

One initiative that has received funding is the Cornish Drone Airbridge, which will use drones to deliver PPE and Covid tests to rural communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

The Cornwall trial will involve a Windracers ULTRA UAV drone flying between Lands End Airport and St Mary’s Airport on the Isles of Scilly. 

Windracers, a company based in Southampton, says it hopes to complete the trip in 30 minutes and be able to take up to 50kg (110lbs) of resources.

The British Government has announced more than £33million in finding will go to drone companies, with many of them using the flying machines to fight Covid-19. Today, a total of 20 companies have been announced which will receive a share of £7.35 million

The British Government has announced more than £33million in finding will go to drone companies, with many of them using the flying machines to fight Covid-19. Today, a total of 20 companies have been announced which will receive a share of £7.35 million

Four non-Covid winners of funding  

1. Windracers SWARM technology (Southampton, Bristol): 

Will develop technology which allows multiple drones to fly in close formations.

Windracers also won funding for a Covid project to fly PPE and tests to remote regions of Cornwall and the isles of Scilly.  

2. Dock-to-Dock (Cardiff): 

Dock-to-Dock will demonstrate an alternative to road transportation between coastal cities, developing a pilot project to deliver goods by air using clean energy: initially between Avonmouth Docks in Bristol and Cardiff Docks in Wales

3. NAPKIN (Greater London):  

NAPKIN will help accelerate the introduction of sustainable, low and zero carbon commercial flights

4. Drone Defence (Nottinghamshire): 

Drone Defence Services and the University of Nottingham will develop sensor technology to track aircraft. By monitoring all aircraft, Drone Defence aims to prevent drone misuse and enable drones to safely share the sky with other aircraft.

5. Gold Dragon (Llanbedr, Wales):

This project will develop sensor technology for unmanned drones, prioritising health and emergency services including the Police, Coastguard, and Mountain Rescue

It is intended to serve as a backup to existing logistics which have been affected by the implementation of ‘Lockdown 2.0’. 

The Windracers ULTRA UAV is a twin engine, fixed-winged aircraft with a carrying capacity of up to 100Kg, in a space around the size of an estate car boot.

The company says it has a range of more than 600miles and although it can carry more, the trial will start with loads weighing 50kg.

In a statement, the company said the type of cargo will depend on the needs of the NHS on the Isles of Scilly. 

Special airspace permissions have been granted solely to Windracers by the UK Civil Aviation Authority for this project.

Stephen Wright, Executive Chairman of Windracers, said ‘We have been working with the Cornwall Development Company and University of Southampton for over three years to design and build the Windracers ULTRA UAV.’

‘We are very pleased that we are able to contribute to helping the NHS fight Covid-19,’ adds Charles Scales, Windracers CEO.

‘This will be the first time a large, load carrying UAV is used in shared airspace between the Isles of Scilly and mainland Cornwall. We are very proud to be part of this ground-breaking project.’ 

Other Covid-specific projects getting a cash boost are MediDrone in London which will shuttle urgent resources from one hospital to another to minimise the risk of transmission; BVLOS Drone Comms in Hertford which will help improve contact between drones and their control rooms when flying outside the operator’s line of sight; and a Chichester-based project which will allow for remote inspection by drone to reduce exposure to the virus of workers.  

Business and Industry Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said: ‘As the UK leads the way in the aviation revolution, these bold proposals showcase the pioneering spirit of the UK’s aerospace and aviation industries in solving global issues, and those facing us here in the UK.

‘Today we have announced over £7 million of funding for projects across the country which demonstrate how using the latest and most cutting-edge aviation technologies can step up our response to the coronavirus pandemic, help us build back better and cement our well-earned reputation for research and development excellence, while creating hundreds of new jobs.’

The nine drone projects that have received a share of £2.34million to help fight coronavirus 

1 –  Project Léman – £553,700 – Essex

Project developing legal frameworks, standards and best practice guidelines for NHS drone users. Including demonstration of drone flights.

2 –  Drone Inspection of building sites – £272,898 – Chichester

Project developing systems for highly-automomous drone inspection operation, removing the need for humans to be put at risk. 

3 – Enabling UK Inter-site Medical Delivery Drone Operations –  £310,674 – Bedfordshire

Project looking to create the national operating standards and technical requirements to allow drones to be used as an alternative, resilient, fast, flexible transport model for moving medical supplies between hospital sites. 

4 –  Autonomous Drone Delivery of Medical Supplies to Care Homes for Covid-19 Rapid Response – £291,549 – London / Oxford

 Using drones to automatically deliver medical supplies, including medicines and PPE from pharmacies to care homes. The project aims to speed up delivery times and increase the number of supplies delivered whilst reducing costs and the risk of contamination.

5 –  MediDrone – £256,386 – London 

Project using a network of small drones following pre-planned paths between medical facilities to act as high-speed shuttles for small medical packages. 

This will improve the delivery speed of time critical medication, reduce the transmission of Covid-19 to vulnerable patients and improve distribution of care provision and testing.  

6 –  Skyfarer – £174,999 – West Midlands 

Creating a flight testing corridor in the West Midlands to allow for the delivery of medical supplies by drone in a populated city environment.

7 –  Cornish Drone Airbridge – £178,435 – Cornwall / Isles of Scilly

Using unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver PPE and Covid-19 testing kits to vulnerable rural communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

8 –  Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) Drone Communications – £107,987 – Hertfordshire

Project looking at improving the reliability and connectivity of drones to the control room when flying outside of the operator’s line of sight.

9 – End to End logistic support tools for effective aerial drone delivery against COVID-19 – £195,100 – Southampton 

Project looking at how to keep people safe and reduce the possibility of Covid-19 transmission by removing the need for people to be involved with handling medical supplies and medicines when the cargo is carried by drones. 



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