Ambulance drone can help heart attack victims in under 2 minutes

Drones get a bad rap from the FAA but there’s growing evidence that more unmanned aircraft in the sky would do more good than harm. We’ve already seen how drones can save the day in search-and-rescue situations, and now a Dutch student is showing people how the devices, which can weigh under 5 pounds, could be a game-changer in medical emergencies.

Alex Momont, an engineer at the Technical University of Delft, has created an airborne defibrillator-delivery system that can reach anyone with a five-square-mile area in less than minutes. The school has posted this remarkable video showing how it works:

The so-called “Ambulance Drone” was the result of Momont’s Master thesis research. On his website, he likens the project to a medical toolbox:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”The first minutes after an accident are critical and essential to provide the right care to prevent escalation. Speeding up emergency response can prevent deaths and accelerate recovery dramatically. This is notably true for heart failure, drowning, traumas and respiratory issues. Lifesaving technologies such as an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), medication, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) aids can be designed compact enough to be carried by a drone.”[/blockquote]

As the video shows, ambulance drones could carry emergency equipment to accident scenes, while a medical technician charts the drones progress online and provides instructions by telephone.

I don’t have the credentials to testify as to the medical or technical efficacy of all this, but at first glance it seems like a sure way to save lives.

The potential legal and safety issues here are obviously enormous, but they don’t seem insurmountable. One approach would be for aviation authorities to issue special permits to hospital dispatchers that would exempt them from certain speed and navigation rules.

Unfortunately, as this week’s FAA news suggests, the United States’ reactionary approach suggests that ambulance drones won’t be in the air for a long time to come (the prospects in Canada and Europe appear much brighter).