Grad Student Invents Flying Ambulance Drone To Deliver Emergency Shocks via Forbws
Drones have been used to kill people in war zones and to spy on people. Now a sharp young graduate student in the Netherlands has come up with an innovative new use for drones that could one day help save thousands of lives.
The American Heart Association estimates that about 360,000 people in the US had a cardiac arrest last year. Less than 10% survived. One major reason for their grim fate is that first responders with defibrillators that can shock the heart back to life can’t get to them in time. An alternative is automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). These have been growing in popularity and can be effective but they will never be everywhere they’re needed. (CPR– cardiopulmonary resuscitation– is not as effective as defibrillation.)
Alec Momont, an engineering grad student at the Delft University of Technology, figured he could bring an AED to the victim using a drone. For his master’s degree project he built a prototype of an ambulance drone containing a defibrillator, a camera, and a microphone and speakers. He says the drone can cut the average travel time from 10 minutes to 1 minute.
The drone can be controlled by a paramedic in response to an emergency call. Using GPS the operator flies the drone to the scene at 60 mph. At the scene the operator, using the drone’s cameras and speakers, gives personalized instructions to people near the victim. The defibrillator itself operates automatically once it is placed on the victim’s chest.
The Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reports that interest in the device has already been expressed by Dutch emergency services and the Dutch Heart Foundation. Momont said the device needs further technical development. Legal issues also need to be resolved. But he hopes the device, which could cost less than $20,000, might be available in five years. Momont envisions additional uses for his ambulance drones, including the delivery of oxygen masks to people caught in fires.
A YouTube video produced by TU Delft dramatically presents a fictional case of a daughter calling emergency services after her father has a cardiac arrest.
“Let’s use drones for a good purpose, let’s use drones to save lives,” Momont states in the video.