In the not-too-distant future, drones equipped with medical supplies might replace ambulances that are slow to respond to emergencies following a natural disaster.
Four years after Hattiesburg, Mississippi was hit with a tornado that injured at least 80 people, Italo Subbarao, D.O., the associate dean of William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, has built three drone prototypes designed to provide medical care in the event of a large-scale disaster, according to a report by Pew Charitable Trusts.
Subbarao began exploring the use of drones to provide medical aid after discovering emergency responders were slowed by destruction and debris in the aftermath of the tornado. Now, Subbarao and his colleagues have tested their drones in front of representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and generated interest from officials in several states and major cities.
Equipped with medical supplies, cameras, microphones and interactive goggles, the drones can connect survivors with an emergency physician who acts as a guide to assessing victims, reading vital signs and administering emergency care.
“This is going to be a phenomenal way to provide immediate medical attention anywhere in the state,” Lee Smithson, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, told Pew.
There is some evidence behind the idea. Earlier this week, researchers from Sweden published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed drones delivered defibrillators to cardiac arrest victims nearly 17 minutes faster than an ambulance.