Drones could help save lives after a cardiac arrest, say researchers

10th March 2017

Researchers in Canada have been investigating using drones to dispatch resuscitation equipment to help people who have suffered a cardiac arrest.

The team said drones were emerging as a technology to help bystanders save the lives of people who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest when life-saving automated external defibrillators (AED) were not available.

They concluded that drones could beat paramedics by six to ten minutes in many cases.

The study, published in Circulation, was carried out by engineers from the University of Toronto and medical staff from the department of medicine at Queen’s University in Toronto.

They looked at the cases of nearly 54,000 people who had had an out of hospital cardiac arrest in Toronto from 2006 to 2014 and quantified the drone network size required to deliver an AED one, two or three minutes faster than the average emergency services response time.

They estimated that a total of 100 drones based at 81 places would be needed to get an AED in place three minutes ahead of average response times.  In the most urban area, AED arrival could be reduced by nearly seven minutes and in the most rural area by more than 10 minutes.

The team, led by Justin Boutilier, from the department of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Toronto, concluded that: “An optimised drone network designed with the aid of a novel mathematical model can substantially reduce the AED delivery time.”