Drones Eliminate 3-Hour Drive to Pharmacy in Australia

Swoop Aero medical drone offers rapid delivery to a pharmacy in regional Queensland in Australia that eliminates a three-hour trip to the nearest pharmacy. The company’s plans to begin trials are doing so in partnership with Australia’s major healthcare supplier, Symbion, as well as pharmacy retailer, TerryWhite Chemmart. 

Swoop Aero is not new to delivering critical medical supplies since it has already done so in remote areas, such as Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Vanuatu.

According to a press release: “The project is being funded by EBOS Group, the parent entity of Symbion, and underlines the company’s commitment to ensuring all Australians can access medicines no matter where they live and whatever their circumstances.”*

Swoop Aero’s drone network will deliver medication within a 81 mile (130 kilometer) range of the town from the local TerryWhite Chemmart Pharmacy to residents who usually have to travel as long as three hours to get to the pharmacy.

The company is currently working closely with aviation authorities to make sure that all the regulations are met during the trial phases.

Eric Peck, Swoop Aero CEO, stated:

“The drone will fly in and out of a central point in Goondiwindi with the flight path fully automated and approved by CASA [Australia’s aviation regulator], deliver the customers products, then return to base ready for its next job. After a little training, it is very easy to operate.”* 

The drones will be operated remotely from Swoop Aero’s headquarters in Melbourne, and, according to the company, each drone can reach speeds of up to 71 miles (115 kilometers) per hour and withstand extreme weather conditions including 31 miles (50 kilometers) per hour winds and heavy rain.

Peck pointed out, “Our aircraft do not have on board cameras filming in flight, but are instead guided by a three-tiered communications system consisting of mobile internet, satellite communications, and data link.”*

Brett Barons, Symbion CEO, stated that using drones to deliver medication is critical in remote parts of Australia because it is such a gigantic country and people have to travel long distances to purchase important medical resources. He put it:

“Not only is this a very convenient option for the delivery of medicines for those living outside of ready access to their pharmacy but, as we saw during the terrible bushfires in Australia last summer, there were cases where road access to some homes and towns were completely shut off.”*

Peck also suggested that Swoop Aero not only wants to provide healthcare to rural and remote parts of Australia in general, but especially in Indigenous communities. 

Earlier this month, Swoop Aero and its partners — Australian healthcare wholesaler Symbion and pharmacy retailer TerryWhite Chemmart — revealed plans to begin trials for the use of drones for delivering healthcare services to remote communities across the state, and a similar announcement was made by the Northern Territory government, iMove Cooperative Research Centre, and Charles Darwin University.

The project will begin by investigating the logistical challenges of using drone technology to deliver health services in the Northern Territory by integrating drones into the current health transport infrastructure network. They plan to purchase airframes capable of withstanding the territory’s wet and dry seasons.  

According to iMove, the eventual goals are to have regular drone flights that reach up to 62 miles (100 kilometers) per hour by the end of 2021. Future goals include progressing to regular drone flights of up to 155 miles (250 kilometers) that transport medical items to and from remote communities by July, 2023.

According to a Swoop Aero press release, Lucy Walker, TerryWhite Chemmart Goondiwindi pharmacist, said she is happy that their community has been chosen to have trials for the delivery of medicines by drones:

“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.

With the ability to service people within a 130km range of Goondiwindi, this drone trial will provide enormous convenience and peace of mind for many of our customers.

Importantly, we will learn a great deal from the trial, what works well, and what may need improving. We can use these learnings to not only fine tune the service to our community, but also share with other regional TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacies around Australia who may be looking to investigate a drone delivery service.”*

Peck mentioned that the firm, Swoop Aero, is seeking to bring everything it learned to the areas of Queensland, and he added that when dealing with medicines, the company is taking the “utmost care, security, and safety needed.”


Like Australia, we also have numerous areas in the U.S. that it is difficult to find medical/ pharmaceutical products within a time that can prove dangerous when there are serious medical situations. Swoop Aero’s medical drone trial that offers rapid delivery can be an incentive to us in the U.S. to make important resources more accessible, especially in rural areas.

In addition, Peck’s company is providing another exciting new benefit that can save lives during this crisis in that they are exploring the possibility of using its platform to support the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines.

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