A DELIVERY of medical supplies became the first package to be carried by drone across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.

The cargo was then delivered to the Pathology Department at St Marys Hospital on the island on Saturday, May 9.

The flight was part of a trial by Solent Transport, the University of Southampton and Windracers to use an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to help the hospital in its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Funded by the Department for Transport, the trial is part of Solent Transport’s Future Transport Zone project which is exploring how the Windracers ULTRA drone designed and built by the University of Southampton, can provide a way to transport medical supplies to St Marys Hospital from the mainland.

It will be a back up to the existing delivery routes which currently use the ferry service.

Tom Cherrett, Professor of Logistics and Transport Management at the University of Southampton said: "This first flight has been invaluable in showing how the logistics at either end will have to operate to tie in with the drone operations.

"This will all contribute to the learning process of how such autonomous systems will function alongside traditional supply chains in the future."

Staff from the university's Unmanned Aerial Systems team along with Windracers were overseeing the flight from mobile control centres at both airfields.

The Windracers ULTRA drone is a large, twin engine, fixed-wing platform with a carrying capacity of up to 100kg in a space around the size of an estate car boot. In the initial operations it will be carrying loads of up to 40kg.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has provided clearance for the drone to fly beyond line of sight with benign cargo and now the system is on standby to deliver goods as and when needed by the NHS on the Isle of Wight.

The operation will be able to carry out ten return flights between the mainland and the island per day.