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Skylift UAVs to Deliver Medications

The Wight Stuff

Skylift, the U.K.-based maker of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) founded by a pilot, a sailor, and software developer, is making ready to demonstrate the ability of its drones to deliver prescription medications across the Isle of Wight. In partnership with Apian—a drone startup founded by medical students and ex-Googlers—Skylift’s UAVs will convey chemotherapy drugs from a pharmacy at Portsmouth Hospitals University to St. Mary’s Hospital.

Deliveries to the Isle of Wight ordinarily take four-hours. Skylift’s UAVs will cut that time down to thirty-minutes—an important distinction in light of the short shelf-lives of many pharmaceuticals. Following the Isle of Wight trial flights, the program will carry out drone flights in Northumbria.

Skylift’s fully electric UAV utilizes eight lift-motors for vertical takeoff and landing, but transitions to forward, aerodynamic flight at an altitude of approximately thirty-meters. The vehicle features a synthetic vision system which allows continued flight in the event of primary optical-camera failure or IMC weather conditions. The function also serves as a sort of visual simulator for operator training purposes.

Skylift CEO Toby Moores suggests the relatively large size of his company’s UAV and its forward aerodynamic-flight capability afford operators payload capacity, speed, and endurance beyond the pale of smaller machines.

Owing to a development team peopled with aviators, the remote pilot station via which Skylift’s UAV is controlled bears a strong resemblance to the cockpit of an EFIS-equipped conventional aircraft. Mister Moores remarked: “Our remote pilot station is very much based around the glass cockpit—the PFD [primary flight display] and MFD [multi-function display]—things you would normally expect to see on a Garmin 3000 or something like that.”

The universality of the Skylift platform’s pilot-interface promises to simplify operator training, facilitate safe, all-weather flying, and ensure consistent mission completion.

Skylift conducts the assembly, testing, and certification of its UAVs in-house. The excellent safety record of Skylift vehicles has earned the company authorization from the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to conduct UAV operations to a 35-kilometer outbound distance. What’s more, Skylift’s remote piloting platform supports drone fleet-management—a facet of the UAV industry in which the company also specializes. 



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