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Ambulance drone is a flying defibrillator with fast response time

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The response time of emergency services can reach 10 or 15 minutes in many cities with heavy traffic, but that’s not good enough when someone is suffering a heart attack. A student at the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology has unveiled a possible solution. The ambulance drone designed by Alec Momont can fly at 60 miles per hour (100 kph) to deliver a defibrillator to a patient in mere minutes.

The ambulance drone is a hexacopter painted in emergency services yellow. It can be dispatched to a location within 4.6 square miles (12 square kilometers) in about a minute. Upon landing, anyone able to help the victim will be talked through using the attached defibrillator by an operator. The operator will also have access to a live camera feed from the drone to make sure everything is done correctly. Luckily, defibrillators are fairly easy to use.

When someone suffers a heart attack, time is of the essence. If normal cardiac rhythm can be reestablished quickly, survival and complication rates improve dramatically. It can take as little as six minutes for brain death to occur during a heart attack, something that could be prevented by the flying defibrillator.

One of the most common ways of treating a heart attack is with a defibrillator. You’ve probably seen unrealistic depictions of this device in the media hundreds of times — they aren’t miraculous machines that restart dead hearts, but it can still save lives if used soon enough. A defibrillator is actually used to stop the life-threatening cardiac dysrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation, and tachycardia seen in heart attacks. Basically, it can eliminate irregular and accelerated rhythms that prevent the heart from doing its job.

Momont doesn’t want to stop with the defibrillator, though. He imagines a future version of the ambulance drone with a full suite of medical supplies like an oxygen mask, EpiPen, and insulin injectors. Before any of that happens, there are legal issues to be worked out, and the guidance system needs to be perfected. At a cost of 9,000 each, it won’t be a small expenditure for emergency services, but that’s cheaper than adding more ambulance crews to lower response times.

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