Drone Ambulance Network Could Save Lives in Europe

Nancy Crotti

November 12, 2014

3 Min Read
Drone Ambulance Network Could Save Lives in Europe

When someone suffers cardiac arrest, every second counts. 

With that in mind, a Dutch researcher has developed an "ambulance drone" that weighs about 9 lbs., is capable of carrying another 9 lbs., and can fly at a speed of 62 mph, reducing ambulance response time from 10 minutes to 1 minute.

Graduate student Alex Momont of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands said in a YouTube demonstration video that he wants to create a drone ambulance network with "an ultra-fast response system" capable of increasing the survival rate of cardiac arrest sufferers in the European Union from 8% to 80%.

A GPS system locates a caller's cell phone to guide the drone to the patient, concurrently connecting the caller to someone to guide him or her in helping the patient. The prototype drone in the video carries a cardiac defibrillator.

"The drone essentially becomes a flying toolbox for your emergency supplies," Momont said in the video.

Momont added in the Delft news release: "The costs should not be an issue; I have calculated these at approximately EUR15,000 [nearly $19,000] per drone, which is clearly a reasonable amount if you consider the number of lives that could be saved."

Researchers produced a lightweight design using 3-D printed microstructures and carbon-fiber frame construction. The drone also folds into a compact size.

"Our iterative process using design sketching, laser cutting, and CNC (computer numerical control) milling, allowed us to rapidly visualize our ideas," Momont said. "The result is an integrated solution that is clear in its orientation and friendly in its appearance."

Momont's ambulance drone would not be the first to fly into the medical field.

Delivery service DHL recently received permission to send a drone it calls a "parcelcopter" to deliver medication and other urgently needed items to the carless island of Juist off the northern coast of Germany, according to a report in the London Daily Mail.

A Silicon Valley company called Matternet ran field trials of its drones in September 2012 to deliver medications to camps set up in Haiti after the island's 2010 earthquake, Reuters Health reported. Matternet has also run a field test in the Dominican Republic, flying supplies and diagnostic tools to small healthcare centers in remote areas.

Amazon and Google have also hopped on the tiny drone helipad with big plans for package delivery. Amazon has asked the FAA for permission to conduct test flights, Forbes reported in June.

Facebook wants to begin testing its 747-sized (but lighter-weight) drones at heights of 60,000 feet to connect those who lack Internet service to the social media site, the Daily Mail reported.

Momont wants his work to be nobler.

"Let us use drones for a good purpose," he said. "Let us use drones to save lives." 

Nancy Crotti is a contributor to Qmed and MPMN.

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About the Author(s)

Nancy Crotti

Nancy Crotti is a frequent contributor to MD+DI. Reach her at [email protected].

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