The U.K. government is set to use drones to deliver medical supplies to areas affected by the novel coronavirus.
In a press conference on April 24, U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps disclosed that a test run of the project will commence next week.
Shapps said the drone project is part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 situation and that the project has been allocated an £8 million funding, equivalent to US$9.9 million [AU$15.5 million].
Shapps added the government also wants to “fast-track” the drone project and has identified a location for the first trial flights.
Urgent deliveries to the Isle of Wight, other areas
As part of the trial, the drones are expected to carry on a delivery run from Southampton General Hospital to St. Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight.
The drones will cross the English Channel, where the isle is located, via the Solent Airport. The isle is about 5 miles off the coast of Hampshire.
It is estimated that the drones will make the delivery to the Isle of Wight in approximately 10 minutes.
Other than St. Mary’s Hospital, the trial run will also deliver medical supplies to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, located on the southeast coast of Hampshire.
Trial run to carry PPEs, time-sensitive medical supplies
Shapps did not specify what kind of medical equipment will be carried by the drones.
The initial payload of the unmanned aerial vehicles, however, is said to be personal protective equipment (PPE) and urgent supplies such as organs and blood.
For the test run, the government will use drones that can carry a maximum payload of 100 kilograms and can travel up to 1,000 kilometers.
Coronavirus situation in the UK
Shapps, in the same press conference, said that in the last 24 hours, about 684 people died from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to more than 19,000.
At the time of this writing, over 4,900 cases have been added, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.K. to 152,840.
As of the last count, health authorities have administered testing to 612,031 individuals.
Using drones against COVID-19
Aside from the U.K., several countries have tested or are currently using drones against the pandemic.
In the Philippines, one of the major cities earlier used drones to disinfect areas identified to be contaminated with the novel coronavirus.
In Spain, authorities used drones to remind citizens to stay at home while the whole country is in lockdown.
Worldwide, the current number of COVID-19 cases has now reached more than 2.9 million.