Australia continues to be a leading light for using drone delivery and the latest development is a proposed transporting of pathology samples from the Moreton Bay islands to Mater Pathology testing labs in Brisbane under a new collaboration between Mater and Swoop Aero, reports a press release. The initiative will slash up to six hours off the time it takes for samples, including vital blood tests and Covid-19 swabs, to reach Mater for testing.

The release states, “The integrated bi-directional drone logistics network is expected to collect more than 80,000 pathology samples a year from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service patients and others living on Stradbroke Island, Russell Island, Macleay Island and additional Moreton Bay islands serviced by Mater Pathology, as well as the Redlands and Hope Island on the Gold Coast.” This partnership represents Australia’s first drone-enabled pathology collection network.

Debra Hornsby

Debra Hornsby, General Manager of Mater Pathology, commented, “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. 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.”

She continued, “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, the company has obtained advanced operational approvals in 14 countries and has achieved 20,000 operational flights. Swoop commenced operations in Goondiwindi, Queensland in 2021 to transport routine prescriptions to remote patients.

Following FAA type certification, Swoop Aero’s fleet of Kite TM aircraft are to travel distances of over 175 kms on a single battery charge across the Brisbane area, carrying up to 10 lbs of medical cargo.

Eric Peck

Eric Peck, Swoop Aero’s CEO, remarked, “We have a big vision for Queensland. By leveraging the most advanced technology-based platform on the market, our drones 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 Moreton Bay in 2023 and future initiatives could include the delivery of medicines to aged care homes by Mater Pharmacy.

The drones would land in Greater Springfield for testing in the Mater Pathology laboratories at Mater Private Hospital Springfield.

Maree Knight, Mater’s Diretor of Innovation, said, “Mater is at the forefront of healthcare innovation in Queensland. 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.”

Background

Mater operates Queensland’s largest not-for-profit network of public and private hospitals and healthcare services. Founded in 1906 by the Sisters of Mercy, its Mission is to provide compassionate care to those who need it most. Mater’s 11 hospitals treat almost 580,000 patients a year and one in every five Queenslanders is born at a Mater hospital.

Mater Pathology conducted 3 million pathology tests in 2021 and conducted more than 2,500 Covid-19 tests a day during Queensland’s 2022 COVID peak.