Tag Archives: remote regions

Drones for life-saving medical supplies for remote communities

Custom-made, state-of-the-art medical drones with a flying range of up to 250km will be developed and trialled for delivery of potentially life-saving medicines in the Northern Territory – Australia’s first ever healthcare drone trail for regional Australia.

The project will also pave the way for future delivery of critical items such as cold-storage vaccines (COVID-19) in regional and remote communities, the iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre – part of the Federal Government-funded CRC Program has announced.

The Northern Territory is one of the most sparsely settled jurisdictions in the developed world with a significant Indigenous population living in remote communities.

iMOVE is funding the project in partnership with the NT Government Department of Health and Charles Darwin University (CDU), who will manage the trial under Associate Professor Hamish Campbell.

The project is already running with talks underway with manufacturers for suitable drone airframes capable of handling wet and dry seasons, and a maximum flying range of 250km.

Leading drone services consultants Hover UAV, who have managed projects for Google and developed cutting-edge shark detection surveillance technology, are advising on the project.

Drone pilots will soon be recruited and will undergo specialist training.

The Project will involve developing a drone test flight centre in the Northern Territory.

Key goals and milestones for the project include:

  • Regular drone flights of up to 100km by the end of 2021
  • Regular drone flights of up to 250km & regular transport of medical items to and from remote communities by July 1, 2023
  • Further development into drone delivery of cold-chain items (COVID-19 vaccine)

iMOVE programs director Lee-Ann Breger, a specialist in transformational R&D, conceived the project and was heavily involved in bringing together the necessary industry and government partners needed to undertake the project. 

“There are about eight million people living in rural and remote parts of the country – that’s about a third of our population living in places where getting life-saving medical supplies is not only a race against time, but also a battle against the tyranny of distance, harsh landscapes and unpredictable elements,” she said.

“Regional communities face medical access and health supply issues. This doesn’t have to be the case. We have the technology to put an end to this deprivation, especially in remote Northern Territory First Nations communities,” she said.

Breger said one of the project’s main goals was to create an efficient model so drone health delivery services could eventually be rolled out in other regional locations across Australia.

“We are looking at developing capacity and ways of doing things to ensure sustainability of this service beyond the lifetime of the project. It’s ground-breaking and important work, with significant benefits for millions of people who live in regional areas.

“Drones seem an obvious solution, a potential game-changer. In the not too distant future, if you see a drone flying overhead in the middle of nowhere there’s a fair chance that technology is on its way to help someone or even save their life,” Breger said.

First published by iMove

past Australian environments

Tracing change: past Australian environments

Curtin University researchers are creating snapshots of past Australian environments using the minute traces left behind by plants, animals and microorganisms. Dr Svenja Tulipani and Professor Kliti Grice from the WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre looked for clues in sediments at Coorong National Park, South Australia, to find out how this system of coastal lagoons has changed since European settlement.

The Coorong Wetland is an ecologically significant area, but human water management practices and severe drought have led to increased salinity and less biodiversity, Tulipani explains. By examining microscopic molecular fossils, known as biomarkers, and their stable carbon and hydrogen isotopes, the researchers have identified the types of organisms that previously lived in the area, uncovering evidence for changes in water level and salinity due to changes in carbon and hydrogeological cycles.

“We found significant changes that started in the 1950s, at the same time that water management was intensified,” Tulipani says. “It affects the whole food web, including the birdlife and ecology,” Grice adds.


“We found significant changes that started in the 1950s, which was the same time that the water management was intensified.”


The project used Curtin’s world-class instruments for gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, as well as a new instrument that is capable of even better analysis.

“It allows for a new technique that reduces sample preparation time as the organic compounds can be analysed in more complex mixtures, such as whole oils or extracts of sediments and modern organisms,” Tulipani explains. “We can also identify more compounds this way.”

Tulipani has been able to use samples taken from the remote Kimberley region to examine an extinction event around 380 million years ago. Grice says the techniques are particularly relevant to the evolution of primitive vascular plants during this time period.

“In some locations of the Pilbara region, you can look at very early life from more than 2.5 billion years ago. You can go back practically to the beginning of life.”

Michelle Wheeler