Close this search box.

Google testing drone deliveries of medication in the Australian skies

Project Wing is collaborating with communities and partners in southeastern Australia to trial their delivery drones. As a new part of the project, deliveries of food and medication is tested, team leader James Ryan Burgess writes in a blog. The project is part of Google X, that is testing new technologies. Similar tests for delivery of medical supplies to rural areas are being conducted by other companies in Switserland and several African countries.

Over the past few years, Project Wing has conducted thousands of flights to get its drone delivery technology ready for everyday use. Early 2016 saw the successfully completion of the first drone deliveries to members of the public in an open field at Virginia Tech University. This fall wtesting commenced in a rural community on the border of the ACT and NSW, tackling an entirely different level of operational complexity: making deliveries directly to people’s yards.

Testing of medical deliveries

The testers?—?from alpaca farmers tot math professors?—?have been helping to fine-tune how the drones move goods from where they’re located to where they’re needed. Now two Australian merchants are joining the tests, as they’re eager to understand how drone delivery could help them serve their customers better.

The parties involved are Guzman y Gomez, a Mexican food chain, and Chemist Warehouse, a chain of pharmacies. Thwy will receive orders from testers who’ve purchased items using the Project Wing app on their smartphones. The drones will  pick up the order from the partners’ loading sites and then transport and deliver the goods to testers at their residences.

Long trips for medical supplies

Residents near the testing area on the outskirts of the ACT live an idyllic country lifestyle on 10-acre blocks of rolling land spotted with gum trees and horses. But they face a 40-minute round trip in the car for almost anything, whether it’s a carton of milk, veggies for dinner, or a cup of coffee. Almost all said that they’d value having medicine delivered to their door, especially when they’re unwell.

They also had ideas about delivery drones being used to transport drinking water, food, medical supplies, and mechanical parts to emergency service workers operating in rural areas or places cut off due to floods and fires. As part of our upcoming tests, Project Wing will help the Australian Capital Territory Rural Fire Service assess how its technology could aid their efforts.

Training systems for reliable delivery

‘Our drones are able to deliver items almost anywhere?—?backyards, public parks, farmlands or even fire-breaks, Burgess writes. ‘ But we need to train our systems to reliably identify safe and convenient delivery locations. This is more complicated than it looks. We have to incorporate customer preferences?—?e.g. many of our testers would like packages delivered to backyards so they’re not visible from the road, or near kitchens so food items can be unpacked quickly. And we have to be ready to accommodate changing conditions at the delivery location. The more test deliveries we do, exposing the sensors on our aircraft to new delivery locations, the smarter our aircraft’s algorithms will one day become at picking a safe spot for deliveries.’

Smooth loading and delivery

Project Wing partners Guzman y Gomez and Chemist Warehouse will help with learning what needs to be done to ensure that orders are channeled to their staff smoothly and that they can easily load goods onto delivery drones.
Burgess: ‘Through our partnership with Chemist Warehouse, we want to ensure our system is able to support merchants with a wide variety of products. As part of this test, they’re offering nearly 100 products across categories like vitamins, dental care, sun care, and over-the-counter medicines. By practicing how we pack items of very different shapes and sizes into our fixed-sized package, we’ll learn how to optimize how many items we’re able to deliver per flight.’


ICT&health World Conference 2024

Experience the future of healthcare at the ICT&health World Conference from May 14th to 16th, 2024!
Secure your ticket now and immerse yourself in groundbreaking technologies and innovative solutions.
Engage with fellow experts and explore the power of global collaborations.

Share this article!

Read also
Navigating Digital Maturity in Healthcare IT
Digital maturity vs. Reality. How to rethink the IT staff role in a hospital
Online health care icon application on smart phone
End-users of mobile health apps expect far more than a good design
Mayo Clinic started with its innovations for its ten million patients and demonstrated that its model worked, and that data could be ethically and responsibly used to drive innovations.
John Halamka: 'Create the Fear of Missing Out'
Balancing regulatory compliance with seamless adoption, healthcare navigates the integration of AI solutions.
A guide to implementing AI in healthcare amid the EU AI Act
Futurist Amy Webb claims that wearables will evolve into "connectables"
Digital health solutions empower patients to better manage their health and integrate care into their daily lives.
How to improve Digital Patient Engagement to streamline workflows
For people with diabetes, inaccurate blood glucose measurements can lead to errors in diabetes management, including taking the wrong dose of insulin, sulfonylureas, or other medications that can rapidly lower blood glucose.
Smartwatches measuring glucose level: Harmful but easy to buy fake innovations
How to introduce innovation and AI in healthcare organizations if there is no business model for prevention and quality – Our interview with Professor Ran Balicer, the Chief Innovation Officer at Clalit Health Services and founding Director of Clalit Research Institute.
I see no legitimate rationale for delaying the digital transformation in healthcare
Pioneering Cardiac Arrest Detection for Enhanced Survival.
CardioWatch Revolutionizes Cardiac Arrest Detection
Dr. Oscar Díaz-Cambronero, Head of Perioperative Medicine Department at La Fe Hospital, spearheads innovative telemonitoring initiatives revolutionizing patient care
Smartwatches Saving Lives Inside and Outside the Hospital
Follow us