Led by AGS Airports, the CAELUS consortium consists of 16 organisations working towards autonomous medical drone delivery, with a particular view to supporting rural parts of Scotland. The ground-based infrastructure to support the network is being designed by AtkinsRéalis. Taking cues from nature, the lightweight aluminium landing pad folds outward like the petals of a flower, allowing a drone to land in the centre before the origami-like structure folds back in, creating a lid that can protect both vehicle and cargo.
According to AtkinsRéalis, solar PV will be used to generate power to operate the lid and recharge the drone where possible. The landing pads will be positioned at sites such as GP surgeries, medical centres and hospitals where the drones can land safely and the unit can be stored securely.
“There are a number of considerations in terms of the practical function of this pad as it has to be able to fit into a van or on a trailer to transport it, so it needs to be lightweight,” said Chris Crombie, lead designer on the project for AtkinsRéalis. “But at the same time it needs to be secure from the elements and strong enough for the job it’s designed for.
“This is the initial design stage but what the team has developed is an entirely unique concept which deliberately echoes the environment it operates in, with its flower-like design.
“It has sustainability at its heart and, most importantly will provide NHS Scotland with the infrastructure it needs to operate the drone network and make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Operators on the ground will oversee the drone landings. Separate cases have been designed which enable the secure storage of medical supplies and for the drone to be removed from its pad for repairs and maintenance when necessary.
“The ground-based infrastructure is obviously a crucial part of the project in order to support the drones and will ensure we can make the delivery of essential medical supplies throughout Scotland including to remote communities,” said Fiona Smith, spokesperson for Project CAELUS.
“These initial designs from AtkinsRéalis really bring to life the potential for this important drone network, and it’s exciting to see such an innovative design taking shape.”
According to the consortium, the next stage in the development of the pad will be the fabrication of a working prototype, due to be tested in real-world conditions in early 2024.