We’ve been using drones’ ability to deliver goods for a while now, but it turns out they can do a lot more than that, and recent tests show that they can even save lives in the event of a heart attack.
Swedish scientists have been working on drone defibrillator technology for quite some time, and recent real-world tests show that it has a chance to work. Because as it turns out, in most cases, such an unmanned aerial vehicle gets to the scene much faster than any ambulance with medics, and with heart problems, time is of the essence. With cardiac arrest, brain death and death can occur within minutes, so the chances of surviving a heart attack outside of a hospital are slim. Adequate measures, however, including CPR and an automated external defibrillator (a computerized device that uses voice and visual commands to guide both medically trained and non-medically trained individuals through the procedure for safe defibrillation in cardiac arrest), significantly increase them.
Already in 2014 we saw the first attempt, namely a student-designed Ambulance Drone with an integrated camera with which specialists instructed those present, and the Defikopter is another example. Already in 2017, researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet ran simulations showing that these types of drones reach the scene of an accident 4 times faster than an ambulance, and this time we could see defibrillator drones in action in real cases of cardiac arrest. – For the first time, a scientific group can report the results of a study in which drone defibrillators actually arrived on the scene of actual calls indicating cardiac arrest, explains one of the study’s authors, Andreas Claesson.
The pilot program, which involved emergency call operators, drone pilots and flight control, took place over 4 months last year. As a result, defibrillator drones were dispatched to locations where probable cardiac arrests were reported – there were 12 such situations, of which the drones successfully reached the site in 11 cases. They flew an average distance of 3.1 km and in seven cases were on site before the ambulance, with a difference of 1 min 52 seconds on average.
However, it is worth noting that in no case was the defibrillator used before the arrival of the ambulance, because this was not the purpose of this phase of the research – it was rather to test the capabilities and catch possible obstacles. There is no denying that the drones did not fly in the dark, rain or strong wind, and were programmed to avoid densely populated areas, hence the one unsuccessful attempt to reach the site.