Drones could soon be used to fly medicines to remote Australian communities

Former aviation pilot Tom Kasca knows what it’s like to be grounded. He hasn’t flown since he broke his neck in a kitesurfing accident in Far North Queensland in Cairns in 2013.
“I fell from the sky from a height of about 7 to 8 meters, landed on my head, and snapped the C7 vertebra,” says a 40-year-old man.
“I unknowingly fell into a sandbar and a kitesurfing tool pulled me face down into the water.
“Fortunately, my best friend, who was also kitesurfing, saw it happen. At first he thought I was dead.

“He didn’t move my neck because he knew the basic first aid. He turned me on his back and lifted his head above the water.”

Tom Kaskian on a helicopter after the accident.

Tom Kasca was airlifted to the hospital after a broken neck in a kitesurfing accident. credit: Supplied Tom Kaskian

Not only is Kaska walking, he is also cycling the marathon, despite the plates that secure his neck with carbon fiber screws. He resisted his first concern that he might never walk again.

“I’m very fortunate to have another opportunity to get away from that and reinvent myself. But I’ve lost my career, so all of my life is overnight. It has changed, and it was quite difficult to get over it. “
During a long rehabilitation phase, Kaskian began flying the drone.
“I’m not flying an airplane, but I’m still flying a machine,” he says.

“Aerodynamics are very similar. Much of the technology is like being on a flight deck.”

Tom Kaskian lifting a drone in the park

Tom Kasca with a drone in Sydney credit: SBS News / Sandra Rune

In 2018, Caska took the drone one step further and started a business with colleagues Rakesh Routhu and Aerologix. The platform connects drone pilots to clients and is described on its website as “Drone Uber”.

In one of the current projects, the company is working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the University of NSW School of Aviation to test the transportation of high-value medical products across NSW in the region.
“We are very excited to help Australia’s rural and remote areas with the transportation of medicines, vaccines and equipment using fairly flashy drones,” says Kasca.

“We aim to begin providing medicines later this year, especially to the indigenous communities of western New South Wales.”

We aim to begin providing medicines later this year, especially to the indigenous communities of western New South Wales.

Tom Kaskian, Aerologix

Routhu runs a drone business in India, moved to Australia in 2018 and received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) scholarship from the University of New South Wales. There he and Mr. Caska met. Routhu currently lives in Brisbane and oversees the Bangalore-based Aerologix technical team.

“Aerologix uses deep technology to support drone pilots and customers, and procures and provides state-of-the-art technology to enhance pilot workflows and ensure accuracy.” He says.

Rakesh Routhu in Sydney's Beachside Park

Rakesh Routhu in Sydney. credit: SBS News / Sandra Rune

The drug trial closes Kaskian’s complete career circle, which began flying for Bloom Aviation Services as a young pilot.

“We often flew medicines and medicines to remote indigenous communities by light aircraft, costing about $ 5,000 per trip and charter fees,” he says.

“Therefore, drone delivery is a much more economical and sustainable way to deploy from a regional hub than sending a light aircraft.”

For trial purposes, Aerologix imports about $ 200,000 each in commercial drones from Germany. The drone is based in Dowel and can travel up to a total of 250 kilometers on a round trip, reaching 140 kilometers per hour.
“These trips are too short for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, but at the same time too far for the ambulance,” says Kasca.
These new drones are more robust than cheap recreational models with a wingspan of 3.5 meters. They can carry loads of up to 7 kilograms and can make multiple drop-offs in a single trip, Caska says.
Dr. Catherine Ball of the Australian National University says drones can be used to save lives by delivering medicines to remote communities.
“Imagine you’re in a rural community, literally hours away from your nearest nurse station or doctor. You could need a drug, defibrillator, or EpiPen really quickly. How do you deliver it to someone? “

“People who are very ill and are probably on chemotherapy in the area may need antibiotics right away, so doctors can put medicines in the drone and put it out there. . “

Business partner Tom Caska sitting with Rakesh Routhu

Business partners Tom Caska and Rakesh Routhu. credit: SBS News / Sandra Rune

Dr. Ball says there are multiple applications of drone technology being tested in Australia.

“There are people trying to deliver medical care and blood throughout the Northern Territory.
“People in the Torres Strait use drones to investigate coastal erosion, Cape York indigenous rangers use drones and artificial intelligence to identify rock paintings, and digital archaeologists map them for future generations. I’m saving it for. “

Drone to support farmers

Commercial drones can also represent a carbon-friendly way to open the sky for a variety of business uses, including agriculture.
Professor Andrew Robson of the University of New South Wales says drones can save farmers time and money during the current rural labor shortage.
“In the absence of farm workers, drones are a way to save crops from disasters.
“Drones provide farmers with a specific view of their land, rather than driving across their land in search of leaking irrigators and tree deaths and pest infestations.

“The drone also captures images in crisp resolution, which is especially useful during heavy rains and cloud cover with limited satellite information.”

The NSW RFS crew rescues people from rising floods.

Drones were used to help emergency services rescue people from rising floods. credit: NSW Regional Fire Department

In the recent floods in northern New South Wales, drones were used to assess damage in areas that were still too dangerous for large aircraft and where access to roads was restricted.

“We were able to assign some of the pilots to return the aerial visibility to first responders. The weather was so bad that the helicopter couldn’t even fly in the air,” says Kasca.
“I was able to assess how many roofs were stripped and how many were stuck.

“The drones gave us a high-quality aerial vision of the area, and they were essentially instantly sending back information.”

Tom Kaskian and Rakesh Routu flying drones in Sydney Park

Tom Kasca and Rakesh Routu flying drones in Sydney. credit: SBS News / Sandra Rune

The Aerologix online network currently has 10,000 pilots across Australia. Many of those pilots lost their income during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This was a great way to help airline pilots through Covid when they lost their careers, and it was really nice to give them back,” says Kasca.
Aerologix takes 20 to 40 percent of the price. This means that drone pilots can earn $ 80 to $ 150 per hour.

It was also recently installed on the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) Digital Sky Platform. That is, both the Aerologix iOS and Android apps capture CASA weather forecasts, location-based information, and maps showing where pilots can and cannot fly.

Tom Kaskian in the cockpit of a light aircraft

Tom Kaskian in flight. credit: Supplied Tom Kaskian

Aerologix recently completed a $ 4.2 million funding round. The capital will be used to invest in additional R & D and expand the company’s commercial team.

Australian airlines are back in service, but Caska says many pilots continue to fly drones.
“There are quite a few airline pilots who could take five days of vacation between international flights. They can set up drones and make extra money on the side,” says Caska.
And with plans to expand globally, the sky seems to be the limit for this business.
“We want to create the largest drone ecosystem in the world,” says Routhu.
“At the same time, I want to find a way to give back to the community,” Kasca adds.
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