Thousands of deaths happen due to not receiving timely aid during medical emergencies. Speeding up emergency response can prevent deaths and accelerate recovery dramatically. This is notably true for heart failure, drowning, traumas, and respiratory issues. Drones might prove to be the ultimate solution.

“We found that overall velocity of travel was faster with drones and that time to arrive on average based on distance was also faster,” said the abstract’s author, Dr. Mark Hanna, a fellow in pediatric emergency medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Even though a drone will be of no help where there is a broken leg or a major trauma injury. However, drones could help with a specific niche of emergency scenarios in which the medication or intervention is relatively easy to perform. Here, time is of absolute importance to saving an individual’s life. He notes emergencies such as acute anaphylaxis, which is treated with injectable epinephrine; opioid overdose, or certain types of poisoning which can also be treated via drones now.

medical emergencies drones
Drones like these could reduce response time during medical emergencies.

Test flights mimic real-life medical emergencies

“I don’t think this will ever replace EMS response at all. I just think that it’s an excellent augmentation,” said Hanna. In order to know the exact difference and compare drone response time to traditional EMS response, there were some experiments conducted. Hanna and his team went through public records for ambulance response times in Brooklyn, combing through more than 4,000 ambulance calls.

Furthermore, they tested drone flight response times by flying a drone while attempting to replicate time and weather conditions of some of those ambulance calls. There was a total of 50 drone test flights conducted. Even though they need more robust data by flying more drones, Hanna says the results are promising.

As the uses of drones increases, several additional concerns add up as well. “Faster response times would certainly help to increase the delivery of care in life-threatening situations. But delivery of medications and equipment without ready, willing, and able lay or even medical providers may be a rate-limiting step that must be considered in actual delivery of care itself,” said Dr.Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“While logistical and technical issues still exist on some levels, this technology has the potential to expedite treatment and save lives in the field,” Glatter said. “We should embrace it, and welcome UAVs as an emerging modality to enhance our practice.”