Dr Paul Clayton, from Darling Downs Health, with Daniel Scandar, from Swoop Aero, and the drone which was demonstrated recently (Photo: DDH)

May 18, 2022

Kingaroy could become a “hub location” for drone operations by Darling Downs Health if an innovative pilot program takes off.

Darling Downs Health is exploring the implementation of a program that would carry time-sensitive medical supplies to rural and remote hospitals and multipurpose facilities.

Drones would be sent from despatch hubs to deliver essential supplies, test samples and pharmaceuticals between facilities.

Executive Director of Infrastructure Dr Paul Clayton said the pilot program would be a first for Queensland, if not Australia.

“We’re really pushing the edge of medical innovation with this pilot and as far as we know, there isn’t another hospital or health service that is ready to implement a pilot like this or have something already in operation,” he said.

“We’ve been talking to Swoop Aero for a number of years and to be in a position where we could implement this service by the end of 2022 is an incredible achievement.”

Traveling at speeds of up to 115km/h, the Swoop Aero drone would be dispatched from multiple hub locations and service the surrounding hospital and multipurpose facilities.

“We envisage utilising the likes of Goondiwindi, Dalby or Chinchilla, Kingaroy and Toowoomba as the hub locations that would then be used to fly different goods to our facilities, be unloaded, or released from the air and return back to base in a very timely manner.” Dr Clayton said.

Swoop Aero CEO Eric Peck said it was a great opportunity for communities.

“This collaboration with Darling Downs Health is a fantastic opportunity for communities across Queensland. We’re currently awaiting the outcome of an application for a federal grant from the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships program, which would help bring this service to fruition,” Mr Peck said.

“A large-scale pilot with Darling Downs Health will present life-changing opportunities to patients and communities.”

Mr Peck said the technology had already been successfully deployed in nine countries.

The proposed pilot comes after a successful series of demonstrations in Goondiwindi recently which Darling Downs Health staff attended.

Dr Clayton said the demonstration reinforced that this technology is available, and proven.

“Swoop Aero has been delivering medical supplies with drones for quite a while now overseas and having seen them in action and talking to their staff on the ground, I am confident that the use of drones will provide better outcomes to the Health Service, patients and the community.” Dr Clayton said.

Swoop Aero Australian Operations Manager Daniel Scandar said the drones were autonomous.

“We pre-plan the flight path, set altitude and speed and away we go. This mitigates the risk of human error through automation. If you think about the Darling Downs Health network, it’s almost like road design, once we have our main flight paths designed, we’ll continue to utilise that as our main highway in the sky and then have arterial paths connecting to different facilities or even directly to a patient at home,” Mr Scandar said.

While waiting for the outcome of the grant application, Darling Downs Health will continue to work with Swoop Aero to refine the planned hubs, flight paths and frequency of the drone deliveries.

It is hoped that once the grant is approved, the pilot project will start before the end of the year.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a possible life-saving medical supply drone (Photo: DDH)

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