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VIDEO: Watch pioneering Angus medical delivery drone on a trial flight from Stracathro to Dundee

This is the pilot’s eye view of medical drone flights now being trialled between Angus and Dundee.

They were launched last week in a two-month programme to test the effectiveness of using drones to fly items such as blood samples and medicine to and from Ninewells Hospital.

Those behind the Angus project say it could transform transportation of vital samples to the main testing lab at the region’s biggest hospital.

It is hoped a successful trial will open the door to the initiative being spread across Angus.

Angus drone trial
The on-demand drone service takes off from Stracathro. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DCThomson

Public-private partnership

The NHS Tayside trial is being led by Mercury Drone Ports.

It is a public-private partnership between Angus Council and drone company DTLX to establish Scotland’s first drone port in Montrose.

DTLX director Richard Stark says it has taken 18 months to get the flights off the ground.

And he hopes a successful trial will convince the Angus public and aviation community of the transportation role drones can play in the future.

“Angus is ahead of a lot of people and we want to stay up front in using this technology,” he said.

The technology behind the trial

Flight footage of the full journey between Brechin and Dundee has now been released.

The drone is programmed to fly within a defined corridor 1,300 feet wide and at a height of up to 400 feet.

It travels at speeds of around 50 to 60mph.

“This is a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operation and we are effectively flying in segregated air space,” said Richard.

Angus medical drone trial
Angus Council and NHS Tayside figures at a drone demonstration with DTLX director Richard Stark. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DCThomson

“You have to separate manned and unmanned aviation.

“The technology is not a problem, the challenge is in meeting the regulations, so it’s taken us 18 months to get the route approved.”

But early results are already promising.

Flights are operating between 4pm and 7pm in the trial’s opening phase.

Computer-controlled route

“The drone operator follows the entire flight on screen,” said Richard.

“They don’t have a joystick controller, but have pre-determined functions which can change the drone flight to make it circle, return home or make an emergency landing at an alternative location.”

The Angus drones can carry a payload of up to 11 pounds.

“Rain generally isn’t a problem and it will fly in up to 35mph winds,” Richard adds.

Angus medical drone trials
The drones can reach Dundee from north of Brechin in half an hour. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DCThomson

“These are drones which have been specified for this particular task, but the objective of the trial is to demonstrate the business case and show that drones can be safer, greener and cheaper.”

The trial allows the Skyports drones to fly two approved corridors from Montrose to Stracathro and Stracathro to Ninewells.

Stracathro to Dundee flight time is around half an hour.

The flight path

The flight path crosses the A90 Dundee to Aberdeen dual carriageway just east of Brechin Castle Centre.

It skirts Letham – the largest village in Angus – before crossing the A90 again at Muiryfaulds, south of Forfar.

After passing the south edge of the Sidlaws and over Tealing, the drone touches down near Ninewells.

Richard says he hopes the Angus public will get involved in public consultation sessions due to take place.

Angus councillor Serena Cowdy, Council official Alison Smith and NHS Tayside consultant Dr Ellie Dow at the trial launch with Skyports flight operations manager Alastair Skitmore and Richard Stark of DTLX. Image: Mhari Edwards/DCThomson

“The need is key. But we also want to allay any fears the local population might have around this,” he added.

“And we want to prove to the aviation community it’s got a purpose and is useful.”

“We’ll gather the data that will hopefully allow us to make that case for it to be done across the whole of Angus,” he added.

Wider ambition

“This is just the first phase in our longer project as part of the Mercury Drone Port,” said Richard.

Scotland’s first drone port is to be created as part of the ZeroFour innovation hub at Montrose.

Billions of pounds are expected to be invested in drone technology and operations globally in coming years.

Drones are already used extensively worldwide both on and offshore in industries including renewables, construction and surveying.