The Goondiwindi Region is one of the first communities in Australia to trial deliveries of medications to rural residents via an autonomous drone.
TerryWhite Chemmart Goondiwindi has partnered with drone logistics company Swoop Aero and healthcare wholesaler Symbion, with funding from EBOS Group, and has now begun pilot flights.
TerryWhite Chemmart Goondiwindi pharmacist Lucy Walker said it had taken more than a year to get the required regulatory approvals, and the project would forge the path for similar unmanned aviation services in the future.
"[This project] 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," Mrs Walker said.
"...We will learn a great deal from the pilot - 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 pharmacies around Australia who may be looking to investigate a drone delivery service."
Many of Mrs Walker's customers live on farms or small towns in outlying areas and in some cases, a visit to the pharmacy to collect their vital medicines may mean a three-hour round trip.
As soon as a customer makes an order via the service, a pharmacist will fill the order, and a Swoop Aero ground operator will package and deposit it into its aircraft's drop pod at the Goondiwindi Aerodrome.
The autonomous aircraft travels to its destination, hovering 5m from the customer's desired location before dropping their goods safely before returning to the hub.
Goondiwindi Regional Council Mayor Lawrence Springborg said the technology had endless potential to provide improved rural services not just in healthcare, but in other areas such as veterinary services or agricultural parts supply.
"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," Mr Springborg said.
Council is encouraging on-farm residents within a 40km radius of the Goondiwindi Aerodrome to sign up now via the companies' websites to take part in the pilot program.
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