The city of Trikala in north-western Thessaly recently became the first city in Greece to successfully test the delivery of medicinal drugs to isolated areas via drone. The test was carried out by the municipality of Trikala and its development company e-trikala as part of the EU-funded HARMONY project. Propelled by 4 rotor blades, the drone set off from Trikala to deliver its cargo in Leptokarya, a village about 3 km away. Once there, it made two stops: outside the local pharmacy and in a farmer’s field. At the pharmacy, the pharmacist removed the medicine from the drone’s red storage compartment before it took off again. “Technology can give real solutions to real problems that we have today,” observed Trikala Mayor Dimitris Papastergiou in a news item posted on the online English edition of Greek national newspaper ‘eKathimerini’. “Today we transported medicines to a pharmacy nearby, tomorrow it could be to transport medicines to some emergency.” The vision is a future in which remote villages and people with mobility problems who don’t have easy access to pharmacies are supplied with emergency medication via drone. “It concerns situations where immediate help will be needed, or people and places that are isolated,” stated Dimitris Anastasiou, president of the Trikala Pharmacists’ Association (SYFTA). As an additional benefit, this may also help to reduce traffic in and out of the city.
Pilot-phase drug deliveries
Called ATLAS 4, the drone was constructed by Greek technology integrator ALTUS Land Sea Air and has a flight autonomy of about 45 minutes. In addition to drug deliveries from SYFTA to Leptokarya, it will also be initially tested for deliveries to pharmacies in the villages of Kefalovryso and Mikro Kefalovryso (6 km and 8 km away, respectively). The pilot phase is expected to last three months. HARMONY’s focus in Trikala is to improve citizens’ daily lives, reduce operational costs, and decrease medicine delivery times (given the absence of traffic jams up in the air) through the use of drones. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted drones’ usefulness in supporting social distancing measures. Besides Trikala, the project is also conducting research in five other European cities: Athens (Greece), Oxfordshire (United Kingdom), Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Turin (Italy) and Upper Silesian-Zagłębie (Poland). The HARMONY (Holistic Approach for Providing Spatial & Transport Planning Tools and Evidence to Metropolitan and Regional Authorities to Lead a Sustainable Transition to a New Mobility Era) project aims to provide metropolitan areas with the tools to sustainably transition to a low-carbon mobility era. Its plans include co-creation labs, new mobility services and technologies for people and freight, and the integration of automated vehicles and drones with traditional modes of transport. For more information, please see: HARMONY project website
HARMONY, drone, city, Trikala, mobility, drug, delivery, pharmacy, medicine