Drones carrying PPE and coronavirus test kits will soon transport the supplies between NHS hospitals after receiving backing from the UK Space Agency.
Apian, which was founded by NHS staff as part of the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, aims to establish a network of secure air corridors for electric drones to navigate via satellite-enabled GPS.
Using the drones to help in the Covid-19 response will avoid courier call-out waiting times, free up NHS staff, reduce unnecessary physical contact and minimise the risk of secondary transmission of the virus.
The project will be based at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, part of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, and will be supported by the local Anglia Ruskin University as the academic partner.
The hospital stands on a First World War Royal Flying Corps airfield.
Christopher Law, from Apian, said: “Covid-19 has highlighted challenges in NHS supply chain logistics.
“There has never been a better time to create a faster, more dependable and environmentally friendly method of transporting medical supplies.”
The start-up company was founded by Hammad Jeilani and Mr Law, trainee doctors at the Barts and The London, as well as Mid and South Essex NHS innovation fellows.