Drones currently occupy a somewhat whimsical space in technology. Want to decorate your Christmas tree? No problem. How about a peek at Apple’s new campus spaceship? And as is often the case with tech products, what starts off as whimsy ends up with a practical business application — hello Amazon drone delivery.
Now comes word of a serious, potentially live-saving application for these flying marvels. NBC News reports that EMS response drones could soon be a reality. Imagine you’ve had a car crash and you’re by the side of the road. In zooms the drone, swooping downwards to your location via your smartphone’s GPS. It lands softly nearby loaded with medical supplies, which could very well save your life.
According to NBC News, Dr. Italo Subbarao, the senior associate dean at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, along with a med student, demonstrated last month how a pair of “disaster drones” they developed could deliver “telemedical” packages to victims and rescue teams in a simulated mass-casualty exercise. Subbarao says that these types of drones can get to areas that conventional rescue vehicles may not be able to reach as fast (think a remote mountainous area, although a cell signal for the GPS may be a problem).
“Immediate communications with the victims and reaching them rapidly with aid are both critical to improve outcomes,” Subbarao says. These drones would also give doctors an immediate first-look at victims, whereas otherwise they would have to wait for the victim to arrive at the treatment center.
The report adds that there are still obstacles to overcome, one being the FAA, the government agency that takes a keen interest in such things. Current drone regulations say most have to max out on the scale “at 55 pounds, (with) an altitude ceiling of 400 feet, and line-of-sight operations, that is, within visible range.”
Drone experts at the nearby Hinds Community College, with help from Subbarao’s team, designed and built the disaster drones. One “HiRO (Health Integrated Rescue Operations) package” is designed to help a badly injured victim, while the other is meant to aid up to 100 people with a wide variety of injuries — what you might find in a mass-casualty scenario. Both can fly in rough weather as well.
Dennis Lott, director of Hinds CC’s unmanned aerial vehicle program, said “These drones have impressive lift and distance capability, and can carry a variety of sensors, including infrared devices, to help locate victims in the dark.”