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Drones that deliver Covid-19 tests among £7m funding winners

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South West companies building drones to deliver Covid-19 tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) are among 20 projects to receive a share of £7million Government investment designed to drive innovation.

A trio of businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – Droneprep, Consortiq and Windracers – will use unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver the supplies to rural communities in the county.

The funding stems from £33.5million associated with the Future Flight Challenge, with an additional 28 potential projects also in the pipeline for Government backing, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The challenge aims to reduce the reliance on road travel and increase UK manufacturing opportunities.

Close to half the companies already awarded cash are planning to use it to create technology that will help tackle the pandemic, said the BEIS.

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “As the UK leads the way in the aviation revolution, these bold proposals showcase the pioneering spirit of the UK’s aerospace and aviation industries in solving global issues, and those facing us here in the UK.”

He predicted the funding outlay would create “hundreds of new jobs“.

One of the beneficiaries – Apian – is building a drone to deliver medical supplies such as Covid-19 blood and swab tests between NHS hospitals and labs in response to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Windracers Distributed Avionics, based in Southampton and Bristol, will received a share of funding after developing swarming technology that allows multiple drones to fly in close formations to provide humanitarian aid or fight fires.

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Other successful bids include companies investing in hydrogen-fuelled delivery planes and designers creating technology to enable remote inspections of infrastructure and construction sites.

Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: “Innovation delivers real change and our support for dynamic ideas in this exciting sector means we are now seeing real life solutions, like the drone delivery of Covid-19 medical supplies, for challenges such as public health and climate change.”


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