Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s a medical drone

2 minute read

An emission-free medical drone is in the works, hoping to deliver healthcare in the remotest parts of the country.

The University of Sydney is developing a hydrogen-powered medical drone to increase the accessibility of health services in remote Australia and carry medical cargo over “unparalleled” distances. 

Populations in rural and regional areas of Australia face distinctive healthcare challenges often leading to worse health outcomes

According to the AIHW, around 32% of remote populations are First Nations Australians, who are burdened with lower life expectancy, greater burden of disease and higher hospitalisation rates than non-Indigenous Australians. 

The Wildu Aero Project, led by Associate Professor Dries Verstraete at the University of Sydney’s school of aerospace, mechanical and mechatronic engineering, aims to design a drone able to aid early detection, prevention and treatment of common health conditions, such as sepsis. 

The drone will allow the sustainable delivery of medical cargo over “unparallelled” distances and increase access to pathology, treatment and telehealth services. 

The university has partnered with ASAC Consultancy – which has funded the $3.6 million project – to deliver the drone. 

The partnership will allow Professor Verstraete and his team to design, build and test prototype medical drones able to cover substantial distances. 

The team hopes to finetune the hydrogen-fuelled fuel cell system and develop its triple hybrid fuel cell-based system to extend the lifespan of the fuel cell of the drone in Australia’s harsh climate. 

“Huge areas of Australia do not have easy access to medical care,” said Professor Verstraete. 

“Current technology doesn’t allow drones to cover the required distances while being sustainable, hydrogen fuelled and emissions free. 

“Our mission is to create a hydrogen-fuelled carbon-neutral vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicles that can carry medical cargo, while providing unparalleled range.” 

The project was originally started by ASAC Consultancy’s founding director Anna Klis. 

“The Wildu Aero Project is our commitment to bridging the gap and ensuring every Australian has access to the healthcare they deserve,” said Ms Klis. 

“Through collaboration with First Nations communities and the University of Sydney, we are not just building a healthcare service model, we are building capacity of individuals, communities and organisations to make decisions that support their well-being and those of the community.  

“Together, we’re shaping a future where healthcare is truly inclusive and accessible to all.” 

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