Thursday, October 30, 2014

College student creates an 'ambulance drone' equipped with a defibrillator

A lack of ambulances in rural areas has been a constant concern. Wait times often stretch to critical points, and lives hang in the balance. Many rural areas, such as in Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky—where a woman died earlier this year because the county skimped on ambulance services—are faced with a shortage of ambulances and personnel and often rely on volunteers during emergencies. (Getty Images by Bas Czerwinksi)

A recent college graduate says drones are the answer to a shortage of emergency services, Matt McFarland reports for The Washington Post. Alec Momont, whose family friend died of cardiac arrest because an ambulance arrived too late, concentrated his final project at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands on an "ambulance drone" that could carry emergency supplies quickly to those in need.

"Momont developed a drone with a defibrillator built in," McFarland writes. "The drone is capable of traveling at 62 mph, but the battery lasts for only 10 minutes. He says a network of 3,000 drones could canvas the Netherlands, each drone responding to 12 square kilometers within a minute. He envisions the drones being stationed on telephone poles. The nearest drone could be summoned following a 911 call and flown—either autonomously or controlled by a human—to the site."

"Once the drone lands, a panel is opened up, and the defibrillator paddles are removed," McFarland writes. The drone, which weighs 8.8 pounds and includes a separate battery for the defibrillator, which is capable of delivering up to 50 shocks, includes a camera so that an emergency technician watching from afar can offer personalized advice."

Momont also envisions a drone with a heat sensor that can locate people, such as a skier trapped in an avalanche, McFarland writes. "The Belgian graduated from his Master’s degree program Tuesday and now is focused on finding more funding to make his dream a reality. He estimated a $19,000 price tag for each drone and noted that additional technology such as a Sonar system still needs [to be] factored in." (Read more)

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