A trial funded by iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre will look into the feasibility of flying COVID-19 vaccines to living in remote Australia. The test is expected to occur in the Northern Territory and see the drones fly up to 250 km (155 m).
The project is led by the Northern Territory Government, with iMOVE helping to fund it and Charles Darwin University running the actual trial.
Charles Darwin University will be in charge of the trial and develop a test flight center and recruit pilots to fly the drones. The drones will speed up delivery times of the vaccine to remote areas in Australia while reducing costs to do so.
The trial will evaluate four key points that will ultimately deicide if the trial becomes a reality.
- Procuring airframes that can manage the vast Australian distances, which are far greater than currently flown for health care carriage
- Adapting technology to withstand the territory’s hot, humid, and monsoonal climate
- Planning works with the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority to identify and regulate flight paths within current airspace requirements
- Integrating drones into the current health transport infrastructure network
Minister for Health Natasha Fyles said:
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. The Territory is on the front-foot to being a national leader in the development of drone technology for the carriage of health care.
Australia has been quiet when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine delivery drones, so it’s great to see this project being pushed by the government and such a large educational institution. Hopefully, this will be the first step for many other companies and states to see the benefits drones offer for remote deliveries and follow.
The program hopes to have regular deliveries up to 100 km (62 miles) by the end of the year, with the longer 250 km (155 miles) expected to begin before July 1, 2023.
Lee-Ann Breger, iMOVE programs director, shared:
There are about 8 million people living in rural and remote parts of the country – that’s about a third of our population living in places where getting life-saving medical supplies is not only a race against time, but also a battle against the tyranny of distance, harsh landscapes and unpredictable elements.
Photo: Charles Darwin University