Delivering the first national drone network transporting essential medicines, bloods and other medical supplies throughout Scotland including to remote communities.


As members of ‘Once for Scotland’ Project CAELUS team, HISES colleagues are developing and trialling what will be the UK’s first national distribution network to use drones to transport essential medicines, blood, organs, and other medical supplies throughout Scotland including to remote communities.

It is the second successful round of funding for the CAELUS consortium which brings together 16 partners including the University of Strathclyde, NATS and NHS Scotland.

Since securing £1.5 million in January 2020, the CAELUS consortium has designed drone landing stations for NHS sites across Scotland and developed a virtual model (digital twin) of the proposed delivery network which connects hospitals, pathology laboratories, distribution centres and GP surgeries across Scotland.

Challenge Objectives

NHS Scotland has said it will bring its “Once for Scotland” approach to the project, the second phase of which will involve live flight trials and removing remaining barriers to safely using drones at scale within Scotland’s airspace.

The team seeks to demonstrate a drone-enabled medical logistics network for Scotland, serving a variety of validated real-life use cases across urban and rural environments.

South East CAELUS Team

  • Dr Ed James, CAELUS Clinical Lead and Consultant Microbiologist, NHS Borders
  • Samantha Smith, Senior Innovation Project Manager, NHS Lothian
  • Rory Maguire, South East CAELUS Innovation Project Manager
  • Joy Dawson, Innovation Champion, NHS Borders
  • Brian Renwick, Project Manager, NHS Borders

Delivery Partners

The CAELUS consortium comprises 16 partners including NHS Scotland (including all 14 territorial boards, National Services Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service) and;

AGS Airports Limited

NATS Holdings, formerly National Air Traffic Services

Connected Places Catapult


Cellnex UK

DGP Intelsius

Plane Finder

The Drone Office

University of Strathclyde

ANRA Technologies UK


Commonplace Digital



Trax International

Key Dates

The project is scheduled to run until June 2024.

Project Update

The project team are currently undertaking supporting activities involved in developing detailed use cases for live flight trials and use cases for digital twin activity.

We are currently preparing for an application to be submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in October 2023 for two flight routes in the South East.

In the build up to the live flights, we have established a South East Region Network Group to undertake/oversee all relevant activities associated with the project, escalate key decisions and any points of concern.

This will include the following:

  • Developing detail use cases for live flight trials
  • Developing detail use cases for digital twin activity
  • Ensuring all appropriate governance arrangement are in place
  • Ensuring all relevant approvals are granted
  • Subject matter experts

Two Short Life Working Groups in NHS Lothian and NHS Borders have also been setup to involve colleagues across both health boards in the decision-making process.

The main aim of the Short Life Working Groups is to ensure that all appropriate governance and health & safety arrangements are in place prior to live flight trials and all risk assessments are complete.

Funding Partners

CAELUS project is part funded by Innovate UKs Future Flight Challenge and has secured £7 million of funding.

More on the Innovate UK Future Flight Challenge can be found on their website

Future Flight Challenge 

Useful video links

Project CAELUS short video

CAELUS 1 short video 

Short video showcasing the great work done in Argyll and Bute with the NHS

Short video from COP26 in Glasgow

Full video CAELUS Medical Drones – Showcase Event & Launch

Useful articles

BBC News: Covid in Scotland: Drones to carry Covid samples

BBC News: Medical supplies drone trial takes off in Tayside

Humza Yousaf: ‘Drones could be game-changer for patients in Highlands and Islands’


“The CALEUS project is an exemplar of the large-scale innovation projects Scotland is capable of delivering. Through the NHS innovation test bed infrastructure and by taking a ‘Once for Scotland’ approach, we can determine the viability, scalability and efficiency of the technology, and its potential impact across the NHS. This fusion of skills and knowledge is vital to accelerate the pace of adaption of innovative technologies and support our work to strengthen health and social care innovation in Scotland.”

Professor David Lowe, National Clinical Director, Scottish Health and Industry Partnership, Chief Scientists Office (CSO), Scottish Government