Drone to the rescue for cardiac arrest patients in remote areas

There is hope for cardiac arrest victims in remote areas worldwide after Drone Delivery Canada, a Canadian drone technology firm, successfully completed the second phase of its Automated External Defibrillator (AED) On the Fly Project.

An AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation (VF) and pulseless ventricular tachycardia, and is able to treat them through defibrillation, the application of electricity which stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm. With simple audio and visual commands, AEDs are designed to be simple to use for people with no medical experience, and the use of AEDs is taught in many first aid, certified first responder, and basic life support level cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) classes.

The AED on the Fly Project, which DDC undertook in conjunction with Peel Region Paramedics and Sunnybrook Centre for Prehospital Medicine, saw DDC’s Sparrow drone being tested for speed and efficiency in delivering AEDs in remote areas, against the traditional emergency response service; the ambulance.

“To determine this, phase one of the Pilot consisted of simulating 911 emergency calls in the Township of Caledon in the Region of Peel dispatching DDC’s Sparrow drone equipped with specialized first responder payload that included an automated external defibrillator,” DDC said in a statement. “The delivery time of the drone was then compared against the traditional dispatching of first responder paramedics. Several staged 911 calls were then executed and, in all cases, DDC’s Sparrow drone arrived on-site ahead of the traditional first responder vehicles. DDC’s Sparrow was able to reduce response times on all calls making the pilot a great success.”

DDC’s Sparrow Drone’s second AED delivery test was a success. (Picture: CNW Group/Drone Delivery Canada)

The Sparrow drone has a total flight range of up to 30km with a maximum payload capacity of approximately 4.3kg and can fly autonomously. Recently, it was upgraded with a new functionality that allows a package to be loaded at the point of origin, fly to a destination, hover at a lowered altitude, drop a payload without landing, and return to the point of origin.

Dr. Sheldon Cheskes, an Associate Professor at the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto and the Principal Investigator of the AED on the Fly Pilot Research program expressed his satisfaction with the latest success.

“Our previous research within our rural community suggested the need to optimize the simplicity of AED use once delivered by a drone to the site of a cardiac arrest,” he said. “For the second test, we were able to markedly improve the speed of drone descent, the ability to accurately drop a protected AED from a drone at a safe height but most importantly see first-hand the benefits of the technology that guides the first responder through the application of an AED after being released by the drone in a simulated cardiac arrest scenario.

“All these factors strengthen the likelihood that not only may drones decrease response time to cardiac arrest emergencies in rural and remote communities, but the fear of AED use can be minimised by real-time interaction between first responders and trained personnel, demystifying the use of AEDs during cardiac arrest.

Dr Cheskes expressed hope that the latest test flights will see the Sparrow joining other emergency response services as part of an organised response to cardiac arrest in rural communities.

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