NHS England to Use Drones to Deliver Chemotherapy Drugs

England’s National Health Service (NHS) is experimenting with a new way to deliver chemotherapy drugs: drones.

NHS England has partnered with a company called Apian, which describes(Opens in a new window) itself as “a medical drone startup founded by a team of NHS doctors in training and ex-Googlers.” But don’t worry—England won’t be swarming with drones as a result of these efforts.

“In a first of its kind trial,” NHS England says(Opens in a new window), “starting on the Isle of Wight, chemo will be flown directly from the pharmacy at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust to St Mary’s Hospital, where staff will collect it before distributing it to hospital teams and patients.”

A view of Apian's chemo-delivering drone from below

(Photo: Apian)

These drone-based deliveries are supposed to be much faster than current delivery methods. NHS England says it usually takes about four hours for a car to make it from Portsmouth to St Mary’s; Apian’s drones are supposed to be able to make that same trip in just half an hour.

The deliveries are also said to be more eco-conscious. “Each drone delivery replaces at least two car journeys and one hovercraft or ferry journey per delivery,” NHS England says, “saving carbon emissions and contributing to improving air quality for patients and the community.”

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Apian’s drones are set to deliver the first round of chemotherapy drugs “in the coming weeks.” The program will then expand from the Isle of Wight to Northumbria if the initial tests go well, NHS England says, and could eventually be used to deliver other medical supplies as well.

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