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Benefits and Advantages of Using Drones in Emergencies

Published on 6th May 2017

These days, it’s certainly not uncommon to see semi automatic defibrillators in public places. Increasing numbers of businesses and individuals are seeing the value of making investments in devices such as these, just in case someone does suffer a sudden cardiac arrest either on the premises or somewhere nearby.

And in these technology-driven times, it may well only be a matter of months before we start seeing defibrillator drones in the skies, on their way to an emergency of some kind. In the US, this kind of emergency service is now being considered in certain places, such as in Orange County.

According to the Orlando Political Observer, Orange County fire chief Otto Drozd gave the Board of County Commissioners a briefing on how drones could be used to assist local fire and rescue services, showing how they could deliver ambulatory defibrillators to someone having a heart attack. They could also transmit a 360 degree view of the fire in question and use thermal imaging to help find missing people.

And earlier this year, industrial engineer Timothy Chan – professor at the University of Toronto – explained that drone use in such emergencies could beat the ambulances to the punch and also cut response times in half. Mr Chan investigated to see if a drone could drive down response times, looking into historical ambulance response times to 56,000 heart attacks over nine years to determine where drones would need to be positioned in order to beat first responders.

It was found that rural regions would see response times fall from 19 minutes to nine minutes, while in urban areas response times would fall from just over ten minutes to below four.

The concept certainly isn’t a new one, however. Back in 2014, Dutch engineering graduate Alec Momont developed his own prototype ambulance drone, which was actually a defibrillator with wings that could reach someone having a heart attack within minutes.

The 23-year-old – from TU Delft University – explained: “Around 800,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the European Union every year and only eight per cent survive. The main reason for this is the relatively long response time of emergency services of around ten minutes, while brain death and fatalities occur with four to six minutes. The ambulance drone can get a defibrillator to a patient within a 12 square kilometre (4.6 square miles) zone within a minute, [increasing] the chance of survival from eight per cent to 80 per cent.”

Given that defibrillators positioned in public places are often stolen or vandalised, this could be a really good alternative for helping people in the event of a heart attack. No doubt it’s only a matter of time before defibrillator drones are seen increasingly in our skies – and it if helps to save people’s lives, then this can certainly be no bad thing.