NT to be ‘testing ground’ for medical aid drones in remote Australia

NT Drone Medical

The NT Government is set to deploy new drone technology to deliver health services and support to remote areas across the Territory.

The drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), will deliver time-critical medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas across the Territory, saving precious time as well as costs of traditional transport methods (which also includes the costs of airlifting remote area patients to the nearest facility for treatment).

The NT Government will work in partnership with Charles Darwin University and iMOVE Australia, a transport researcher and developer, to commission the drones.

The project is set to commence testing by the end of this year.

Initially, the team will work to ensure drone craft can cover the vast distances required to be traversed, which, a Government statement notes, is “far greater than currently flown for health care carriage”.

The drones will have a flying range of up to 250 kilometres.

Efforts will also go into ensuring the unmanned craft can withstand the region’s “hot, humid and monsoonal climate”.

The program will also collaborate with the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) to investigate safe flight paths within current airspace restrictions.

In the US, the federal government has deployed drones to aid Covid-19 mitigation efforts, in collaboration with aircraft manufacturing company, Draganfly.

With this technology, drones are being used to detect Covid-19 in government buildings, scanning for elevated vital signs such as high temperatures and increased heart rates.

Alabama State University has also been using Draganfly’s drone technology, combined with a pathogen and virus sanitiser made by Varigard, to disinfect surfaces in its athletic stadiums and arenas.

The US also used drones in the early stages of the outbreak to assist with policing of social distancing regulations in crowded areas, a use case which originated in countries like China.

Currently, a delivery service is being developed in the US to distribute vaccines in hard-to-reach areas. The service is being led by Coldchain Technology Services, which specialises in refrigerated medical product distribution logistics. In this scheme, each drone would carry up to 100 vaccines for delivery.

Northern Territory Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles, describes the use of drones for the project as a “game-changer” in enhancing the state’s healthcare system.

“It doesn’t matter whether you live in the city or in the bush – Territorians deserve to have access to the very best health services, and this new technology will be a driving force in this space,” she said.

Charles Darwin University Interim Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mike Wilson, explained that the partnership will be a “testing ground” for the use of autonomous systems in health care across Australia.

According to UAV market researcher, Drone Industry Insights, the global drone market is expected to reach an estimated $43 billion by 2024.