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Prototype Ambulance Drone Could Increase Cardiac Arrest Survival

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 09 Nov 2014
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Image: The unmanned, autonomously navigating mini ambulance drone (Photo courtesy of Alec Momont).
Image: The unmanned, autonomously navigating mini ambulance drone (Photo courtesy of Alec Momont).
An autonomously navigating unmanned [uninhabited] aerial vehicle (UAV) can deliver a defibrillator to infarction patients within minutes.

Developed by Alec Momont, BSc, an industrial design graduate student at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft; The Netherlands), the autonomously navigating drone can also assist bystanders on the site by providing direct feedback from emergency medical service (EMS) personnel via a live streaming audiovisual connection to instruct them in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedures, automated external defibrillator (AED) use, or other treatments.

The drone, which weighs 4 kg and can carry another 4 kg of equipment, finds the patient's location via the caller's mobile phone signal, and makes its way to the scene via global positioning satellite (GPS) navigation technology, flying at speeds of up to 100 km/h. The first prototype has been designed to transport an AED to a patient inside a 12 km2 zone within one minute. This response speed, coupled with a network of such drones, could increase the chance of survival following a cardiac arrest from 8% to 80%.

“It is essential that the right medical care is provided within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest; if we can get to an emergency scene faster we can save many lives and facilitate the recovery of many patients,” said inventor Alec Momont. “This especially applies to emergencies such as heart failure, drowning, traumas and respiratory problems, and it has become possible because life-saving technologies, such as a defibrillator, can now be designed small enough to be transported by a drone.”

“Currently, only 20% of untrained people are able to successfully apply a defibrillator; this rate can be increased to 90% if people are provided with instructions at the scene. Moreover, the presence of the emergency operator via the drone's loudspeaker helps to reduce the panic of the situation,” added Mr. Momont. “In short, the ambulance drone helps to save lives by extending existing emergency infrastructure with a network of fast and compact UAVs capable of bringing emergency supplies and establishing communication, anywhere.”

The ambulance drone was developed in collaboration with Living Tomorrow (Brussels, Belgium), but there are still a number of obstacles in the implementation of the ambulance drone network, as autonomous flight is not permitted under Dutch law. The drone also still needs to be field-tested and necessitates improvements in its object avoidance system.

Related Links:

Delft University of Technology
Living Tomorrow

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