Mater Pathology’s ambitious plan for a fleet of drones to speed up medical testing across South-East Queensland is taking off after the project secured federal funding.
Mater’s innovative venture with leading drone logistics company Swoop Aero has been awarded $1.8m in Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships funding from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and the Arts.
Swoop Aero will utilise the funding to build upon their existing operations in Southern Queensland and deploy the world’s largest integrated drone logistics network.
The partnership will help create Australia’s first drone-enabled pathology collection network and slash hours off the time it takes for samples to be delivered to Mater Pathology’s Springfield laboratories, enhancing the testing of urgent blood samples and products and building resilience for future pandemics.
It is anticipated that the drone fleet will collect more than 80,000 pathology samples a year from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Comm’unity Health Service patients on Stradbroke Island, as well as other patients across Russell Island, Macleay Island, the Redlands and Hope Island on the Gold Coast.
The service is now scheduled to begin in mid-2023.
Maree Knight, Mater’s Director of Innovation, said the federal funding was a far-sighted investment in innovative health solutions.
“Mater is delighted that the Federal Government is now supporting this exciting project,” Ms Knight said.
“There’s no doubt that drones can help to improve a range of health services for Queenslanders – and especially those living in remote or hard to access locations.”
Mater Pathology General Manager Deb Hornsby said drone delivery of medical samples from Stradbroke Island could slash up to six hours off current testing times, with all testing to be undertaken at Mater Private Hospital Springfield’s pathology labs.
“Mater Pathology will be the first pathology service in Australia to collect samples with drones – we are literally taking pathology to new heights,” Ms Hornsby said.
“Drones are safe, reliable and so much faster than ferries and cars – which means we save valuable time in diagnosing and treating vulnerable patients.”
Swoop Aero’s EATP partnership will also provide end-to-end logistics services across Southern Queensland with Darling Downs Health and Hospital Service and Pathology Queensland.
Eric Peck, Swoop Aero’s CEO and co-founder, said the partnership would support “the world’s first, and largest, fully integrated drone logistics network.”
Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King said the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships Program would ensure Australia’s aviation sector remains at the forefront of innovation.
“This program will directly support regional communities in improving health services and connections, as well as enhancing the capabilities of Australian businesses in delivering new aviation operations with increased technical complexity,” Ms King said.