Drones beat ambulances in first aid delivery test runs

During tests conducted with fake patients, medical drones carrying first aid kits arrived 90 to 120 seconds faster than an ambulance in the busy streets of Iraq, according to technology and engineering magazine IEEE Spectrum.

A team of researchers in Iraq and Australia are piloting the use of drones to deliver emergency aid to patients. 

The system the researchers are testing works by detecting when a patient has fallen and delivers first aid. The system is synced to a smartphone.

According to the report, the drone system successfully reached each fake test patient and arrived at 90 to 120 seconds faster than an ambulance. 

"That may not sound like a really long time, but if you weren’t breathing or your heart had stopped during that 90 seconds, it would seem like a very long time," Javaan Chahl, PhD, one of the researchers and professor of sensor systems at the University of South Australia, told IEEE Spectrum. "In that sort of emergency, the sooner a response, the better the outcome is going to be."

While the drones used in the pilot project carried small first aid kits, Dr. Cahahl said that one day the drones could respond to various medical emergencies. Specifically, he said that the drone could carry a portable defibrillator for heart attack patients or such medications as EpiPens, lifesaving allergy treatments. 

The researchers noted that there are limitations with the current system, including that someone would need to be at the scene of the emergency to administer aid and that it only works outdoors. 

Read the full report here. 

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