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(Pocket-lint) - The Isle of Wight is the first beneficiary of a new drone delivery service that can take urgent medical supplies to its main hospital faster than a ferry.

Where the traditional ferry crossing takes around 30 minutes, not including loading and unpacking, the drone can zip across in a third of the time.

Built by the University of Southampton for startup Windracers and funded by the Department for Transport, the large-scale Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is capable of up to 10 flights to and from island a day.

It initially took a consignment of pathology sample cases, but its capable of many more urgent supplies, especially while the NHS is fighting the current pandemic.

"I like to think of it as a sort of Land Rover of the sky, a similar sort of niche in that it's very robust, very tough, very easy to repair... very reliable," said the professor of aerospace design at the university, Jim Scanlan, to Reuters.

Its potential for use across the UK in the near future could be great too.

"A really cheap platform such as this can reliably deliver things and can fly at night, can fly in fog, can fly in poor weather," he added.

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Previously, talk about drone deliveries has generally been confined to developmental schemes by Google and Amazon. However, this smaller scale operation shows it is possible for specific use, privately builts UAVs to be quickly put into useful service too.

Writing by Rik Henderson. Originally published on 13 May 2020.