20th Oct, 2020

Coventry technology firm in groundbreaking trial to transport vital NHS supplies via drone

A TRIAL to see if urgent medical supplies can be delivered quicker and more efficiently by drone is being started by a Coventry business.

Skyfarer was established by Elliot Parnham in 2019 after studying aerospace engineering at university.

He was initially planning to be part of a project in Africa aimed at using drones to deliver supplies to hard-to-reach areas but travelling restrictions due to the pandemic saw the company look closer to home.

The firm is now working with the NHS to examine the potential of using autonomous aircraft to reduce the time it takes to move medical critical supplies to where

they are needed urgently.

Among the cargo would be plasma, blood, organs and samples which could be delivered to locations much more quickly than by road.

Elliot said: “The technology is still quite expensive and, until that changes, it will only be viable for high value items that need to be delivered as quickly as possible – that is why there is such strong potential with urgent medical supplies.

“It could also lead to the delivery of pharmaceuticals and PPE which, again, has been highlighted as so important during the current crisis.”

He added the potential to deliver products directly to people’s doors was still a long way off because of the limited number of reliable safety systems needed when operating aircraft in dense urban and sub-urban environments.

But, he added he could really see the potential for the system being used to make urgent deliveries more efficient.

“We can’t be any more specific about the location of our trials in Warwickshire, but they are extremely important in the development of the business and could be a lifesaver for people in the future.”

Based at the Coventry University Enterprise Hub Skyfarer has been supported by Business Ready and Elliot has worked with mentor Luke Pulford to get it to this stage.

Business Ready adviser Matthew Lawrence said it was an exciting time, adding he was pleased to have worked with the company to help it identify a potential market and funding streams.

The scheme, managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, delivers support to expanding businesses.

Funding has come from the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business – Start, Grow and Scale Programme.

The company has received a £50,000 grant from Innovate UK which has led to one full-time and two part-time jobs being created and the firm is also in the process of applying for further funding.

The project is also supported by Altitude Angel, an Unmanned Traffic Management system provider, Swedish flight management innovator FlyPulse and Coventry University’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Automotive Research.

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