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A Swedish team has released new findings that could potentially save lives. It was discovered that a drone carrying an automated external defibrillator (AED) can reach civilians four times faster than an ambulance.

According a letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), “Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) affects approximately 55 of 100,000 inhabitants per year in the United States, with low survival (8%-10%). Reducing time to defibrillation is the most important factor for increasing survival in OHCA.”

With lives on the line, a Swedish start-up named FlyPulse created a drone delivery system designed for emergency cardiac situations. In order to test the drone’s efficiency, a study was conducted contrasting its response time against standard emergency medical services (EMS).

Developed and certified by the Swedish Transportation Agency, the study used an 8-rotor drone, weighing about 12.5 pounds (5.7 kg) with a top speed of 46.6 mph (75 km/h). Along with the 1.6-pound (736-gram) AED, the drone featured GPS capabilities, an autopilot system, and an HD camera.

“Two licensed pilots sent GPS coordinates and routes to the drone using alternating telemetry over a 433 mHz and 3G network. The entire flight from takeoff to landing was autonomous, monitored by a dispatcher,” according to the study. To ensure safety, a second pilot was located at the landing site in case human intervention was needed during the descent.

In real-life scenarios, these drones “can be activated by a dispatcher and sent to an address provided by a 911 caller.” Out of a total of 18 consecutive, autonomous, remotely operated flights traversing an average of two miles (3.2 km), the UAV clocked in faster times from dispatch to arrival. The drone took an average time of five minutes and 21 seconds, compared to 22 minutes recorded by EMS.

Although this system shows interesting results, more improvements are needed until its proficient for public use. Additional flight tests, integration with aviation administrations and dispatch centers, component advancement, and investigating bystander versus EMS resuscitation are all on the vital list of further tests.

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