in Aerospace

Drone innovation in healthcare for remote Scottish locations

Posted 1 July 2022

The CAELUS Consortia - an innovative partnership between industry partners, the NHS and AGS Airports - could see drone technology harnessed to improve the quality of care delivered to people living in remote and rural parts of Scotland.

Image courtesy Glasgow Airport

The CAELUS Consortium (Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland) is led by AGS airports and is funded via Innovate UK as part of phase 2 of the Future Flight Challenge.  

Since December 2020, clinical leadership has been provided by NHS Ayrshire & Arran to explore possibilities in the West of Scotland. In recent months, NHS Grampian has led collaboration with other NHS boards and the Scottish Ambulance Service to apply for Future Flight Challenge Phase 3 funding on a ‘Once for Scotland’ basis. This next phase could see the increased testing of Drones in healthcare as part of a medical logistics solution across Scotland.

Using drones to enhance the current logistics service, and test the transportation of laboratory samples, blood products, chemotherapy and medicine delivery, the project will explore the potential to improve diagnostic and treatments times as well as improving services for those whose care is dependent on rail, ferry, or airline timetables.  

Fiona Smith, Group Head Aerodrome Strategy and CAELUS Project Director – AGS Airports, said: “CAELUS has brought together leading partners across the country which has the potential to completely revolutionise the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland. Using drones could reduce waiting times for test results, speed up the delivery of critical medical supplies, and provide equity of care between urban and remote rural communities.”

Hazel Dempsey, Innovation Programme Manager, NHS Grampian, said: “NHS Grampian is committed to providing the best possible care in ways that are as helpful as possible to our community, including the potential use of cutting-edge technology. Our Innovation HUB is exploring whether or not drone technology could be usefully used as way of delivering care to people who live in remote, rural and island locations.

“Our region is uniquely positioned to test this kind of technology because it covers such a vast geographical area with an approximately 50/50 spilt of urban and rural populations. NHS Grampian is proud to be the lead board for NHS Scotland and we very much look forward to working with our sister health boards across Scotland, and our industry partners over the next couple of years.”

The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) has also highlighted the use for drones in the transportation of automated external defibrillator (AED) and assessment of crash and incident sites.  

This project intends to position the United Kingdom and NHS Scotland as a leader in the ‘third revolution in the aviation industry’. If successful, this would see the natural progression of the CAELUS project in the West of Scotland scaled up to a national approach. Announcement on the outcome of the Future Flight Challenge bid is expected mid-summer.






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