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A team of Swedish researchers has been examining the possibilities and efficiency of using drones for responding to medical emergencies. Namely, they have been studying their utility in trying to help people suffering from cardiac arrest.
Specialists in other areas are already testing the possibility of using drones in delivering packages or tracking wildlife. Now, this new analysis is looking determine if such high-flying machines could also help save lives.
Drones Could Help by Quickly Delivering AEDs
The Swedish team analyzed the efficiency of having such devices deliver defibrillators in cases of cardiac arrest. As the researchers point out, survival chances decrease with every minute that passes after the patient suffered a sudden cardiac arrest but did not receive treatment.
“In rural areas, a drone carrying an AED could arrive far ahead — meaning 16 minutes [faster] — of emergency medical services,” stated Andreas Claesson.
He is a paramedic with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm’s Center for Resuscitation Science and the study’s lead investigator.
Claesson considers that a drone sweeping in with an AED could potentially help lives. It could do so as bystanders on site could start the defibrillation process before the arrival of emergency medical teams. They could do so by using the automated external defibrillator (AED).
For their study, the team specially equipped a Stockholm-area fire house with drones from the Swedish Transportation Agency. These were equipped with an AED and also autopilot software, GPS, and a high-definition camera.
In 2016, such machines carried out 18 simulated AED-drone deliveries. These were sent to locations within a 6-miles radius of the fire station. According to reports, the drone delivered the AED in some 5 minutes. In contrast, the median standard EMS delivery time took 22 minutes.
Still, the study has its limitations. Claesson pointed out that the tests did not involve actual emergencies. So the AED was received by a second drone pilot acting as a bystander on site.
Also, other researchers point out that the delivery numbers and also the area targeted are quite small.
Nonetheless, the consensus is that this is a “great idea with a lot of potential”. But some of the hurdles it will have to face include airway regulations and flight distances.
Also, people would have to receive at least a minimum training for operating an AED, so that they would actually know how to utilize it in emergency cases.
Analysis results are available in a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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