Defibrillator-carrying drones improve cardiac arrest responses

Drones could become a vital asset for emergency medical services, after a study undertaken in Sweden found they resulted in a significant cut in response time to cardiac arrests.

In tests undertaken in an area near Stockholm, Sweden, drones were found to arrive an average of 16 minutes before emergency medical services (EMS). Once they arrived, the automated external defibrillator (AED) they carried could be used by a bystander, allowing treatment to be given far quicker than in conventional situations.

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) are a serious problem, with a low rate of survival. In the US, for example, a patient that has a cardiac arrest away from a medical environment has just an 8-10% chance of surviving.

Time to treatment is an extremely important factor in this: chances of survival drop by the minute when patients are waiting to get help, so anything that can cut the time it takes to treat them with an AED has the potential to be hugely significant.

 

The research, which is published today in the journal JAMA, was conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and involved the use of a drone developed and certified by the Swedish Transportation Agengy.

The drone, which was equipped with an AED weighing 1.7lbs (770g), was stored at a fire station north of Stockholm. Equipped with GPS, an HD camera and autopilot software, it was dispatched for out-of-sight flights to carry the AED to locations where OHCAs had previously occurred, within 6.2 miles.

In all cases the OHCA the drone was responding to was simulated, but the 18 flights the research resulted in did demonstrate to advanced speed at which the drone could arrive versus the EMS.

From the time of the call the EMS took an average of 3:00 minutes to set off, but the drone was launched within 3 seconds from dispatch.

However, the real time savings came from travel distance. The EMS’ medium time to arrive from dispatch was 22:00 minutes, but for the drone it was just 5:21 minutes, giving a median reduction of 16:39 minutes.

Images and video courtesy of the JAMA Network

The time reduction could potentially prove significant for sufferers of cardiac arrest, potentially making the difference between survival and death. However, the research is at this stage still limited, and far more will need to be done before drones become a standard part of emergency medical responses.

“Saving 16 minutes is likely to be clinically important. Nonetheless, further test flights, technological development, and evaluation of integration with dispatch centres and aviation administrators are needed,” the authors, led by Dr Andreas Claesson, wrote.

Then there is the matter of whether using a drone to equip a random bystander with an AED machine will be enough to ensure that cardiac arrest sufferers are given suitable treatment.

“The outcomes of OHCA using the drone-delivered AED by bystanders vs resuscitation by EMS should be studied,” the authors added.

Russia announces testing of country-wide drone control network, paving way for commercial boom

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has announced that it will begin testing a vast drone control network that will run across the nation.

The network, which is based on the country’s extensive existing satellite system, will allow small UAVs to safely operate in massive numbers within Russian airspace.

Once established, it will likely lead to an explosion in the commercial use of drones in the country, with drone deliveries in particular becoming viable on an unprecedented scale.

The announcement was made at Navitech 2017 in Moscow yesterday by experts from Russian Space Systems, a space hardware company owned by Roscosmos. Outlining the details of the system, they said that testing would begin this year, but did not provide a precise date for its start.

Each drone in the network will follow a route determined by the system, with ground-based infrastructure continuously receiving real-time data about its location and flight parameters.

This will immediately be processed and disseminated across the network, to ensure that large numbers of drones can be safely flown at any time, without interfering with both each other and traditional airspace traffic.

The network will not require the establishment of major new infrastructure, as all data will be transmitted through a combination of existing systems: FM transmitters, the country’s established cellular communication systems and GLONASS, Russia’s global satellite navigation system, which has provided 100% coverage of the country since 2011.

The system will also provide real-time data about no-fly zones, allowing routes to be adjusted immediately in response to changing information, and will offer a “platform of integrated applications” to UAV operators, content providers and insurance companies.

Roscosmos believes that the system will significantly reduce operating costs for drone owners by limiting the risks involved with running a commercial drone operation, as well as creating the conditions for new industries to emerge.

Among the industries the space agency expects to blossom through the adoption of the network are drone insurance, cloud software that would increase the capabilities of drones and what it calls “convenient services” – a term that likely refers to drone deliveries.

If the platform does deliver on this hope, it is likely Russia would become the first country with an extensive drone delivery network, realising a dream that was first brought to prominence by Amazon back in 2013. However, the US-based company is unlikely to become the main player in the Russian market, having as yet shown little interest in the country for its Prime Air operations.

As with many countries, drone deliveries are currently a rare occurrence in Russia, with notable exceptions including DoDo Pizza, a Syktyvkar-based company that began delivering pizzas to local residents back in 2014.