Drone growth continues as Coventry company is STFC’s 100th company to secure investment


The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is celebrating the 100th UK company to join the world’s largest space innovation network for technology start-ups.

Skyfarer, based in Coventry, is developing the UK’s first autonomous drone delivery network for vital medical supplies.

Since 2010, 100 start-ups have joined the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre UK (ESA BIC UK). The start-ups will use space and satellite technologies to develop new and innovative products and services.

Skyfarer is developing the UK’s first autonomous drone delivery network dedicated to the fast and direct delivery of vital, time-sensitive medical supplies, such as blood, vaccines and vital organs.

Eventually, it would become available to other businesses and organisations for increased efficiencies in diverse logistical operations, safely, autonomously and cost effectively, without the requirement for a drone specialist.

In July, Skyfarer was named “One to Watch” in the Medilink Midlands Business Awards for the West Midlands region.

Skyfarer is leading a consortium including telecoms giant O2, to enhance the pathology network in the UK by potentially speeding up patient response and sample turnaround times and make drone delivery of blood for lifesaving transfusions a reality. The programme, which will also focus on COVID supplies, will create a new drone network infrastructure, providing a quicker and likely greener form of medical transport across England.

Made up of O2, Skyfarer, Cranfield University, the Germany-based Phoenix Wings and Reading-based unified traffic management solutions provider Altitude Angel, the consortium forms the first medical drone delivery network of this type in the heart of England, with plans to create a national infrastructure enabling same day delivery with autonomous drones in the future.

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In March, the project received operational authorisation for extended visual line of sight operations (EVLOS) with an overweight unmanned aircraft system (UAS) from the Civil Aviation Authority, which gives the consortium the green light to conduct short-range flight demonstrations as part of the project. These will test the capabilities of drones for logistics, with technology trials taking place after Easter and delivery trials taking place in the summer.

Coventry company trialing drone delivery of medical supplies between NHS hospitals secures investment

The project is funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and aims to pave the way for harnessing the power of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to revolutionise the provision of healthcare services and develop smarter, safer, greener supply chains that have no impact on road congestion and no increase in fossil fuel emissions.

This comes at a time when transportation accounts for 34 per cent of the UK’s net domestic CO2 emissions – and when heavy goods vehicles make up 17 per cent of domestic transport emissions.