Delivery of critical medical supplies by drones is set to be trialled in Australia later this year, according to world-renowned brain surgeon Charlie Teo.
Teo, an ambassador for the newly formed Australian Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Consortium, told Australian news organizations last Friday that the project, dubbed ‘Angel Drone’, will fly critical medical supplies to patients in remote areas and heavily congested city centres.
A trial, which will be conducted by RPAS – a group of aviation, insurance and legal firms – will take place in rural New South Wales (NSW) later this year. It will involve a remotely piloted aircraft with an incubator capable of carrying blood plasm, according to The Australian.
Droning on to prove use cases
The consortium hopes the first trial will enable it to collect enough data to prove to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) that drones flights can be conducted safely in congested cities, which is usually prohibited, and that piloted drones can be used for further medical deliveries in the future.
If successful, the consortium said the next stage of its planned trials would involve use of a quadcopter drone to deliver critical medical supplies and fly out blood samples from a remote Aboriginal community in Australia’s Northern Territory. Details of this trial are still being negotiated with the Northern Territory government.
The changing nature of drones
“I used to picture drones as these little things that could carry a specimen, for example,’’ Dr Teo said.
“But they have drones that can now carry a doctor, a human being. There are also jet drones that can travel at two or three times the speed of sound.”
“Angel Drones is a project where we believe we can take this technology that is already used in other fields like mining, the military, and adapt it to medicine so the whole world can benefit.”
The consortium includes the likes of QBE Insurance, the University of Sydney, drone regulation experts UAS International, and Marque Lawyers among others. It is currently seeking funding from healthcare companies to find trials of its medical applications.
This is not the first time drones will be trialled in the delivery of medical supplies. Governments in Rwanda and Madagascar are already benefitting from this technology.
Meanwhile, Amazon has filed a patent for a pocket-sized drone that can be controlled by voice commands or by smartphone, which it says could be used by numerous emergency services agencies, according to the Times.
As drones begin to find their niche and more use cases emerge, it seems the technology is set to truly take off.