Thailand trials medical drone deliveries across sea to remote island

Photo by Public Health Ministry.

A groundbreaking trial in South Thailand‘s Satun province saw a drone successfully deliver medicine across a 12-kilometre sea route to a hospital on the island of Koh Puyu. The Public Health Ministry’s research committee conducted the trial in collaboration with a team of developers from Singapore, Skyports, and Gp Capt Anukoon Onchan-om, a student from the National Defence College.

During a press briefing yesterday, Dr. Sophon Mekthon, assistant to the public health minister, and Dr. Nutthapong Wongwiwat, deputy director-general of the Department of Medical Services, announced the successful trial. Dr. Sophon explained that the trial is part of an effort to digitise medical services, making them more accessible and affordable for people in remote areas, Bangkok Post reported.

The trial marked the first time Thailand has seen a drone fly across the sea to deliver medicine, he said. The drone carried tetanus vaccines from Satun Hospital to Puyu tambon health promotion hospital on Puyu island and returned with bags of blood for Satun Hospital.

The drone used in the trial was a 17-kilogram Swoop Kookaburra Mark 3, an innovation from Skyports Swoop Aero. Capable of carrying up to 3 kilograms, the drone can reach speeds of up to 68 kilometres per hour and fly continuously for 68 minutes. It can also operate in rain at levels below 10 millimetres per hour.

Dr. Sophon revealed that the medical drone service had been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC). The drone is guided by satellite communication, allowing it to be operated across the country.

“The drone trial proved to be a success,” Dr. Sophon said. “It will give people living in remote areas access to medicines and medical services.” He also noted that medical drones could be used in emergencies, such as natural disasters, to deliver medicines, vaccines, and serums to patients. The successful trial will serve as a model for other operations in the country soon.

Thailand News

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.