DRONES my soon be flying over the Ipswich skies delivering medical samples to the pathology testing labs at Mater Hospital, Springfield.
Mater has entered a partnership with Australian drone logistics company Swoop Aero to do a pilot test of the scheme and is now seeking government support to fund the project.
The partnership will create Australia’s first drone-enabled pathology collection network and slash hours off the time it takes for samples – including vital blood tests and COVID-19 swabs – to reach Mater for testing.
It is anticipated that the integrated logistics network will collect more than 80,000 pathology samples a year from Mater patients as far afield as the Morton Bay Islands.
Mater Pathology’s leveraging of the Swoop Aero drone logistics service underpins a giant leap in how essential supplies and services are delivered in Queensland, after Swoop Aero commenced transporting routine prescriptions to remote patients in the Goondiwindi region last year.
“Depending on ferry services, it can take up to six hours to get samples for testing back to Mater from Straddie and the other islands,” General Manager of Mater Pathology, Deb Hornsby, said.
“With the huge increase in testing caused by COVID, there was a pressing need to speed up our collection services – and that’s when we approached Swoop Aero.
“Drones are safe, reliable and so much faster than ferries and cars – which means we save valuable time in diagnosing and treating vulnerable patients.”
Since Swoop Aero’s founding in 2017, Swoop Aero has obtained advanced operational approvals in 14 countries and has achieved 18,000 operational flights.
Following FAA type certification, Swoop Aero’s fleet of Kite ™ aircraft will travel distances of more than 175 kilometres on a single battery charge across South-East Queensland, carrying up to 10 lbs of medical cargo.
“We have a big vision for Queensland,” said Eric Peck, Swoop Aero’s CEO. “By leveraging the most advanced technology-based platform on the market, Swoop Aero will unlock the skies to enable Mater to drive forward the next era of pathology transportation.”
Mater and Swoop Aero are seeking federal support for the pilot project through an Emerging Aviation Technology Partnership (EATP) Grant.
If successful, drones will be flying across Ipswich in 2023 and future initiatives could include the delivery of medicines to aged care homes by Mater Pharmacy.
Swoop Aero drones operate well below commercial aircraft altitudes and flight path approvals will be obtained from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
The drones would land in Greater Springfield for testing in the Mater Pathology laboratories at Mater Private Hospital Springfield.
“Mater is at the forefront of healthcare innovation in Queensland,” said Maree Knight, Mater’s Director of Innovation.
“The use case for pathology- sample drone transport is clear and will alleviate pressures on the health system to deliver timely, effective and quality healthcare.”