In the perhaps not-so-distant future, drones could be first responders.
That’s the conclusion from a report published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) following a simulated study involving drones carrying defibrillators in Sweden.
Researchers for the study equipped an eight-rotor drone from the Swedish Transportation Agency with a GPS system, a camera and a defibrillator for several out-of-sight test flights in October 2016.
Their aim: to find out if life-saving equipment like the defibrillator could be dispatched to a person in cardiac arrest outside a hospital more quickly with a drone than with a traditional emergency response unit. They made some hopeful discoveries.
Though the study admits that “whether [drones] reduce response times in a real-life situation is unknown,” the researchers tested simulated emergency response times of both drones and typical emergency medical services and found the drones to be much faster.
First, the drones were much quicker to get going. It took dispatchers an average of three seconds to send a drone into the sky, whereas it took dispatchers an average of three minutes to get an EMS team out the door.
Drones also reached their destinations in an average time of less than 5.5 minutes, compared with the average EMS time of 22 minutes.
It took dispatchers an average of three seconds to send a drone into the sky.
The fastest EMS arrival wasn’t even 30 seconds faster than the average drone arrival time, and, according to the study, “the drone arrived more quickly than EMS in all cases.” Drones were on average more than 16 minutes faster per trip.
The drones, in case you were wondering, won’t be able to apply the defibrillators. Someone else will have to be on hand to grab them and help the person in cardiac arrest.
In the United States, 55 people in 100,000 go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year, according to the report. Only 8-10 percent of people who experience that kind of heart trauma survive, but these new findings suggest that drones might be able to boost that percentage.
“We believe that the technology is pretty much available,” Andreas Claesson, a coauthor of the study, wrote in an email. “Aviation legislations are strict and may be an obstacle for introduction of drone services as for now. However this will probably change significantly over the next coming years.”
A clinical study is in the works for 2018.