The project U-ELCOME, to transport medicines to remote areas using drones, kicks off

08 May 2024

Using drones to transport medicines to remote locations, guaranteeing citizens an essential service even in areas that are difficult to reach with traditional delivery systems. This is the objective of the U-ELCOME project, presented yesterday at Fucino Space Centre that sees Telespazio involved as drone operator and technological partner.

In mountainous areas, such as the Sirente Velino Regional Natural Park, the delivery of hospital pharmaceuticals can be at risk due to inaccessible roads and, in winter, bad weather and snow, creating considerable difficulties. The U-ELCOME project aims to ensure the delivery of medicines to all patients who need them and who live in the Park area, using remotely piloted aircraft and satellite technologies that will be tested in the coming months.

The project is focused on transporting pharmaceuticals, distributed by the hospitals in the cities of L'Aquila and Avezzano, to special hubs near the municipalities that have joined the trial (Castelvecchio Subequo, Rocca di Mezzo, San Demetrio and Vestini). Pharmacists will then collect and deliver the medicines to patients. The aerodrome in Celano will be used as technical stopover to increase the efficiency of the service between the municipalities of the park.

Telespazio will provide the project with the innovations developed in the field of unmanned aircraft and of satellite navigation and communication services. The Company will manage the entire drone delivery service, from the planning and execution of the flight to the request for authorisation, through the proprietary T-DROMES ® platform, which will act as the system’s true cloud control centre, also contributing significantly to the optimisation and simplification of routes. Commercial drones equipped with the TPZ Air 100 box, whose command and control is managed through both satellite and terrestrial communication channels, will also be used.

In the first phase of the trial, the delivery service will be limited to pharmaceuticals that do not require refrigeration. The drone will be able to fly for 35 km in BVLOS mode (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) along pre-established routes, with the option of making an intermediate charging stop to increase autonomy. Once the testing phase has been completed, the partners aim to finalise technologies, procedures and processes to deliver the actual service in 2025.

The project is part of the wider U-space European COMmon dEpLoyment (U-ELCOME) project, which in turn is part of the European SESAR 3 JU Digital Sky Demonstrators initiative, coordinated by the Eurocontrol Innovation Hub and involving 51 partners in Italy, Spain and France.