Could Drones Deliver Life-Saving Defibrillators for Heart Attack Victims?

September 10, 2013
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Originally published on MedCityNews.com.

In a project that falls somewhere between “are they serious?” and “hmm, that’s an interesting idea,” a team in Germany has come up with a way to use a drone to deliver a defibrillator to someone having a heart attack.

Originally published on MedCityNews.com.

In a project that falls somewhere between “are they serious?” and “hmm, that’s an interesting idea,” a team in Germany has come up with a way to use a drone to deliver a defibrillator to someone having a heart attack.

The technology organization Definetz has reportedly worked with drone maker Height Tech and defibrillator manufacturer Schiller on the device, which is demoed here.

To deploy the drone, a person would need to have downloaded the accompanying GPS-enabled app to his smartphone. In a release unveiling the machine last month, Definetz said the drone could be summoned to a specific location within a 10 km (6 mile) radius from where it’s stationed. There, it would parachute the cardiac defibrillator to the ground.

According to the Local, Germany’s emergency officials welcomed the device but cautioned people not to get too excited about the technology just yet. It’s clever, out-of-the-box thinking, but it’s definitely not ready for prime time.

For starters, some of the logistical pieces are missing. People who experience sudden cardiac arrest will die if not treated within minutes. That’s why automated external defibrillators, which deliver electric shocks that restore a failing heart’s regular rhythm, are found in high foot-traffic places like malls and airports. Definetz said the drone could travel up to 70 km per hour (44 mph), but with the amount of time needed to launch the app and summon it, is that even enough? Not to mention the person, or whoever he’s with, would need to have downloaded the app. It would be more useful if it were triggered by a body sensor the person was wearing.

A person having a heart attack would also have to be within 6 miles of a drone, which would be especially problematic in remote areas, where the it was actually designed to be used. Then there’s the price tag, which has been rumored to read $26,000.

This isn’t the first time drones have been used in healthcare. A Palo Alto company called Matternet wants to build a network of drones that would bring supplies to remote areas of developing countries that don’t have usable roads or hospitals.

What do you think?