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Why Goondiwindi’s medical drone is just what the doctor ordered

After giving birth to the world’s oldest international airline, rural Queensland could again be pioneering a new aviation frontier.

Mar 10, 2022, updated Mar 11, 2022
Chemist Lucy Walker (left) shows the drones to onlookers in Goondiwindi.

Chemist Lucy Walker (left) shows the drones to onlookers in Goondiwindi.

The Goondiwindi region in south-west Queensland is piloting a new program to deliver medicines via drone technology.

Launching from the region’s aerodrome and reaching speeds of up to 115 kilometres per hour, the drones will initially cover a radius of 40 kilometres.

In the footsteps of aviation pioneers who launched Qantas, those behind the Goondiwindi pilot are hailing the project to trial deliveries of medications to rural residents via an autonomous drone as a first for an Australian rural community.

Mayor Lawrence Springborg said the project would put his community “on the map as the birthplace of a burgeoning new frontier of aviation technology”.

“This technology has endless potential to provide improved rural services not just in healthcare, but in other areas such as veterinary services or agricultural parts supply,” he said.

“We do encourage as many residents as possible to take part in the trial to give our community the best shot of having this service continue.”

The pilot is a partnership between TerryWhite Chemmart, drone logistics company Swoop Aero and healthcare wholesaler Symbion with funding from EBOS Group.

TerryWhite Chemmart Goondiwindi pharmacist Lucy Walker said flights had started after a year of obtaining the required regulatory approvals.

She said the project would forge the path for similar autonomous aviation services in the future.

“This project is really paving the way for regional Australia and setting the standard for the future of remotely-operated deliveries,” she said.

“Most importantly, it will ensure people in regional areas are serviced just as well as those living in town with better, faster, and more convenient access to healthcare essentials.

“Many of my customers live on farms or small towns in outlying areas. In some cases, a visit to our pharmacy to collect their vital medicines may mean a three-hour round trip.”

As rural communities in southern Queensland and NSW remain either cut-off or hampered in their movement due to floods, Walker is optimistic the Goondiwindi trial will have wider applications for people enduring the challenges of remote living and the distress of natural disasters.

“Importantly, we will learn a great deal from the pilot, what works well, and what may need improving,” she said.

“We can use these learnings to not only fine-tune the service to our community, but also share with other regional pharmacies around Australia who may be looking to investigate a drone delivery service.”

Springborg, who saw Walker present a drone demonstration to local businesses at a Goondiwindi Region Innovation Network (GRIN) event last week, agrees with the assessment.

“This technology has exciting implications for so many other industries down the track, and a potentially important role to play during disasters,” he said.

“To have a drone to provide deliveries of medicines could be of critical importance in situations where access is limited, such as what we saw in the recent flood event with many residents cut off from town.”

 

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