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Distributed Avionics partner on NHS resupply flight trials

Distributed Avionics have partnered with Windracers and the University of Southampton to provide emergency transport services to support the response to COVID-19 at St Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight.

Windracers and Distributed Avionics are working with Solent Transport to trial an innovative and fast UAV transportation service to help reduce the impact of COVID-19. The aim is to transport medical supplies and equipment to St Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight, from Southampton General Hospital via Lee-on-the-Solent Airport in under 20 minutes. The trial is part of a wider Department for Transport lead initiative called “Future Transport Zones (FTZ)” which has selected Southampton as a use case city. Due to the potential impact of the technology in response the the COVID-19 crisis, trials have been massively accelerated as the Government seeks improvements to existing logistics solutions. The trial will benefit patients on the Isle of Wight by speeding up the delivery to and from the Hospital.

The trial will involve a Windracers ULTRA UAV flying between the Isle Of Wight and the mainland to support St Mary’s Hospital, providing an additional transit service for small unit loads as a backup to the existing logistics system which uses ferries, which currently have a reduced service due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Windracers ULTRA UAV is a twin engine, fixed-wing aircraft with a carrying capacity of up to 100 kg over a 1,000 km range. The aircraft was designed and built by the University of Southampton on behalf of Windracers. The initial operation will involve carrying loads of less than 40 kg specific to the demands of the needs within the hospital and subject to permissions granted by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Distributed Avionics contributed their high reliability Autopilot solution to the project, which greatly reduced the time taken to gain CAA approval. This demonstration was also an opportunity for interaction between Civil and Unmanned systems, with the ULTRA aircraft operating in the same airspace as an active airport. Tools like DA’s Cloud Control system enabled all stakeholders to monitor progress remotely, ensuring both the airspace around the airport was safely managed and the BVLOS crossing went ahead smoothly.