Solent Airport sees first drone flight to transport medical supplies from mainland to the Isle of Wight
A CUSTOM-BUILT drone has completed its first flight, transporting medical supplies from Lee-on-the-Solent to the Isle of Wight, as one of several ‘lifeline’ flights supported by the airport.
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed and built by the University of Southampton and drone company Windracers took off from Solent Airport to deliver medical supplies to Binstead on the Isle of Wight on Saturday.
The supplies were taken by road to St Mary’s Hospital, marking the first delivery with the aid of the custom-built drone, which can carry up to 100kg.
It comes as Solent Airport remains closed for general aviation activities due to the nationwide lockdown – but it has proved to be a ‘fantastic’ asset providing a range of ‘lifeline’ flights, according to Fareham council leader Sean Woodward.
Emergency flights from the airport have included a DA-42 aircraft delivering ventilator parts across the area, a repatriation flight to Guernsey, and a series of search and rescue operations from the coastguard.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘In its former life as HMS Daedalus, Solent Airport was a vital asset for the Royal Navy and indeed the busiest airfield in the country on D-Day.
‘Roll forward 76 years and the airport is once again proving to be a valuable resource for those who need it at a time of national crisis.’
The drone delivery was part of a project that has received more than £28m from the Department for Transport – but the airport, which is owned by the council and has seen the authority spend more £30m on it, has received no support from central government.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘Fuel sales were very significant in terms of the revenue costs of running the airport.
‘But we have seen a huge reduction in the number of flights at the airport – we’ve gone from expecting thousands of flights to hundreds of flights.
‘It’s another hit on the council’s finances. Most of the staff at the airport have been furloughed.’
Essential flights are still able to the use the airport for refuelling, and a Beech 200 aircraft remains on standby for any medical evacuations or emergencies.