Drones have been around for quite some time now. More often than not, they are used for surveillance. One major retailer has also toyed with the idea of delivering goods door to door with drones. With each announcement I can’t help but see in my mind’s eye the overcrowded skies as depicted in the Fifth Element. But I recently read a piece about drones that absolutely fascinated me.
Drones for medical applications.
I live in an area referred to as greater London. Our roads are often bound by not only nature (there’s a massive river called the Thames that crisscrosses the area) but also history; therefore, you can’t widen the roads. Well you can but you end up stripping the land of its heritage. While the roads are not as bad as those you’d find in Rome, some roads are barely wide enough to get two way traffic (and don’t even get me started on people who feel the need to drive massive 4-wheel drive cars while the rest of us seem to be able to trek the treacherous and not so mountainous roads of greater London in our normal sized cars).
As you can guess, our roads get congested during rush hour. Big time. On Saturday it took me 1.45 minutes to drive 40 miles at noon – with about 45 min of it covering the first 10 miles. To give you an idea of why that is soul crushing, the journey home took only 45 minutes at 9 pm the same day. Anyway, while sitting in stop-and-go traffic I spied an ambulance several cars behind me. Drivers on both sides of the road had to move over as close to the sidewalk as possible to open a path wide enough for the ambulance to drive down the center of the street – the larger cars had to mount the sidewalk. The ambulance driver was able to get through but the few seconds waiting for cars to move out of the way were precious time that hopefully someone in the ambulance didn’t need in order to survive. And of course that scene took place the entire way to and from the hospital… not just on that stretch of the road.
So when I read about a drone which delivers life-saving help I was very pleasantly surprised. Alex Momont, a Dutch engineering student, has created a prototype flying defibrillator that can deliver help well before an ambulance can get to the victim. According to the article “around 800,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the European Union every year and only 8% survive. The main reason for this is the relatively long response time of emergency services of around 10 minutes, while brain death and fatalities occur within four to six minutes. The ambulance drone can get a defibrillator to a patient within a 12 square kilometer zone within a minute, increasing the chance of survival from 8 percent to 80 percent.”
It is an astonishing piece of kit if I may say so myself and one long overdue. One of its most brilliant features is that it can locate the patient by finding the mobile used to make the emergency call through standard GPS protocols. It also has a communication system so hospital staff can instruct the person aiding the victim on how to use the equipment. To hear its creator and to see this drone in action please follow this link. Although the “happy ending” featured in the video is a tad bit Hollywood, I’ve seen and heard enough to be in favor of such an initiative.
I know his invention is still very much in its infancy stage but I can’t help to think that he’s still got a fair bit of work ahead of him. Unleashing drones on the unsuspecting public may incur safety related issues – effectively they will be buzzing about our heads. To further complicate matters, these drones would require a fair bit of electronics crammed in a rather compact enclosure. So aside from regulations, there are a lot of electronics cooling challenges which he’ll need to overcome. To see what some of those challenges might be take a look here. But as someone who’s watched a loved one have a heart attack and wait for the paramedics to arrive I can definitely give this brilliant engineer two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Good luck Alex!
Until next time,