The Royal Flying Doctor Service is investigating the possibility of integrating drones into its operations to help improve medical services for people living in outback Queensland.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), which was set up to deliver medical services to people living in rural and remote areas of Australia, has always been faced with the challenge of pilots and clinicians travelling huge distances to reach the furthest corners of Australia. During the 2017/18 financial year alone, the RFDS travelled over 22,500 hours across 7.7 million kilometres.
Now, the RFDS is hoping new technology will be able to help it reach remote communities more quickly and economically.
In April, the RFDS and World of Drones Education brought together leaders in drone technology as part of a Drones in Health Care Think Tank to look at how long-range drones could be used to deliver life-saving medical care such as snake anti-venoms and insulin to those in rural areas. The Think Tank also looked at other ways drone technology could be integrated into RFDS operations through survey mapping for landing strips or recording audio and video for teams on the ground.
RFDS Head of Clinical Governance Trent Dean says the RFDS is hoping to have drone technology services up and running within the next 12 months but would first have to work out the regulations.
The drones would not replace RFDS pilots, but rather complement and enhance the services already being provided by freeing up crew and aircraft for other jobs.
“We don’t want to rob rural and remote communities of frontline medical services, but if we can use drones for tasks which could free up an aircraft for something else then that’s very valuable,” says Trent.
A version of this article first appeared in brisbanetimes.com.au