During one of the morning news shows, I saw a story about an innovative new use for a drone — one that could potentially save lives in the not so distant future.
For his master’s degree project, a Dutch graduate student named Alec Momont has designed what’s being called an “ambulance drone.”
A little background:
Out of the 400,000 heart attack victims in the US last year, less than 10% survived. Why? Because first responders with defibrillators could not get to them in time. In a heart attack, aid must be given in the first five minutes or the chances of survival drop to just 8 percent. The average ambulance response time in the US: 10 to 12 minutes. And even though AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) have grown in popularity, they can’t be everywhere.
So Alec set out to see to see if he could bring an AED to the victim — via a drone! His prototype contains a defibrillator, camera, microphone and speakers.
He says the drone can arrive as quickly as one minute after being dispatched – at an air speed of 60 mph – cutting the average travel time from 10 minutes to 1 minute within an area of 4.6 square miles. And he hopes to eventually double the drone’s top speed to make response times even faster.
Here’s how it works:
Using standard GPS protocols, an operator flies the drone to the location of the emergency call. Once on the scene, a “remote” paramedic can provide instructions to whoever is on the ground, with the help of the drone’s cameras and two-way speakers.
According to his research, Alec says the cardiac arrest survival rates could increase to more than 80 percent.
The estimated cost of a drone:
Around $19,000 each, which does not include the cost of the staff to pilot them.
Other potential benefits:
Drones are cheaper than a fully equipped ambulance.
They can be placed in key locations around cities.
They can reach the emergency location much faster than an ambulance.
But heart attack victims are just one potential life-saving cause for Alec’s flying defibrillator. He would like to see his drone become a “flying medical toolbox” able to carry an oxygen mask to a person trapped in a fire, an insulin injection to a diabetes sufferer or carry heat sensors to locate skiers buried in avalanches.
The concept of using a drone to dispatch emergency medical supplies and equipment in a tight and difficult-to-drive urban environment can mean the difference between life and death. And with Alec’s innovation, we are just beginning to scratch the surface to improving responses to EMS calls.
To see the ambulance drone in action, check out this video on Today.com.