Why there will be ‘Medical Drones’ in the future

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Have you ever been driving on the freeway, or a crowded city street when you hear the siren of an ambulance? The emergency vehicle carefully fights its way through the traffic. People don’t seem to understand that it is on its way to an emergency. Perhaps this vehicle will arrive in time to be a part of saving a persons’ life. Or, maybe it will be detained in traffic, resulting in that person dying.

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Mark Hanna works at Maimonicles Medical Center in New York. He is an emergency pediatrician. He understands the need for immediate attention when there is an emergency. After observing an ambulance fighting its way through traffic on a Brooklyn street, he began to question a way to try to help solve this problem.

Hanna started by studying the response times of ambulances in a borough in New York City. Next, he flew his drone in similar weather and wind conditions to determine how quickly it could travel the same distance as an ambulance.

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Hanna recently presented his findings to the American Academy of Pediatrics Conference in New Orleans. He admitted the data was not perfect, but it was a starting place. Hanna said if the air over New York remained clear that the drone could arrive at its destination much quicker than an ambulance. It would also be able to deliver medication as well as observe the scene for first responders.

Hanna said the average time for an ambulance to reach a life-threatening emergency in Brooklyn is more than nine minutes. He noted that these patients are often facing an overdose, anaphylactic shock, or cardiac arrest, which means ‘time’ is vitally important in determining if the patient lives or dies.

The doctor says that drones can travel the same distance as an ambulance 32 percent more quickly. He sees a scenario where drones can work in tandem with their counterparts to provide emergency medication while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The drone could also provide valuable information to first responders with its camera.

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Hanna’s next step is to determine the efficiency of bystanders in administering medication. The medication would be delivered via the drone. He plans to recruit people who have no formal medical training to have a full picture of how easy and safe it would be with the medicine arriving via a drone.

Hanna has another project he is working on. He is presently looking for collaborators and funding to help create and build a drone to meet the needs of a ‘medical drone.’ Other projects have looked into similar possibilities, but none of them match the requirements that Hanna envisions. An ‘ambulance drone’ was built in the Netherlands. It was developed to deliver a defibrillator to a patient going into cardiac arrest. Another was created by Zipline to drop medicine for a patient. However, Hanna has a specific model in mind. Hopefully, it will be developed in the near future.