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Greek City of Trikala Tests Drone Delivery of Medicines

Trikala medicine-drone
Test flight of a drone carrying medicinal drugs in Trikala. Credit: Trikala Municipality

The city of Trikala in the Thessaly region has become the first Greek city to complete a successful test of delivering medicinal drugs via an unmanned drone. The red drone, with four rotor blades, took off from the northwestern city of Trikala and flew 3 kilometers (0.5 miles) to Leptokarya to deliver its cargo.

The drone made two stops, landing outside a pharmacy and in a farmer’s field. A pharmacy staff member unloaded the medicine from a storage compartment on the drone, and it took off again.

“These are not science fiction scenes,” stated the mayor of Trikala and president of the Greek Municipalities Association, Dimitris Papastergiou, regarding the trial. “These are moments from the future, and not too distant future, of our daily lives, how we can during emergencies, to transport essential items, such as medicines,” he added.

The EU-funded program, called “Harmony,” aims at the use of low carbon and less resource-intensive solutions for transport. The drone program is intended to serve people with mobility issues, as well as those in isolated villages and homes and in emergencies. Officials said the project is particularly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It concerns situations where immediate help will be needed, or people and places that are isolated,” said Dimitris Anastasiou, the president of the Trikala pharmacists’ association. The Harmony program, which also has autonomous vehicles, will be tested in six cities in Europe and the UK.

Medicinal drones a Trikala pilot program

The drone system will be piloted for two months, based on the regulatory framework of the Civil Aviation Department. The pilot application will be crucial for emergency situations, due to the need for faster and more efficient transport of goods with the use of telematics technologies.

The coordinator of the program, which costs a total of 8,000,000 Euros, is the University College of London with the local participation of e-Trikala SA and the University of the Aegean. The program, part of the EU funding framework for Horizon Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020), in the category “Smart, green and integrated transport,” expires in 42 months.

Drones for Trikala, the most tech-savvy Greek city

It’s not the first time that the city of Trikala has embraced piloted technological innovations sponsored by EU programs. Back in 1995 it tested unmanned vehicles in public transportation and in 2019 it implemented a city-wide 5G network free to use publicly by its citizens.

The e-Trikala foundation, implemented 15 years ago by the city and grown by every mayor elected since, has turned this relatively small city into the most advanced technological innovator of the country. Trikala has been named the country’s best “smart city” many times in the past ten years.

The city’s mayor, Dimitris Papastergiou, was elected president of the Greek Municipalities Association last year, a title traditionally won by the Athens mayor. That was another indication of the innovative progress the city of Trikala has achieved over the past decade.

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