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Drones might one day be used to transport defibrillators to heart attack victims. More efficient and cheaper than a traditional ambulance, this method has recently been tested in Belgium and Sweden.  


Drones might soon be used to urgently transport defibrillators to heart attack victims. This "second-generation" ambulance, which is more efficient and cheaper than a traditional vehicle (1), has recently been tested and the results look promising.Thanks to this technique, the victims' chances of survival could increase, since defibrillators are often located too far away from heart attack victims.



An alert sent by text message 


In their study published in the Journal International de Médecine [available to subscribers only], Belgian researchers explain that these "ambulance drones" − which are already being used to transport medicines and blood to remote areas or for operations carried out at sea – should be kept in strategically-positioned locations according to the heart attack risk in each area.  

After an alert has been sent by text message, the defibrillator can quickly be sent to the scene driven by a pilot who is in charge of a group of devices. The operator can guide the people helping the victim thanks to the device's camera, and the helpers can then administer an electric shock using the defibrillator. 



Drones arrive at the scene before the emergency services in 32% of cases


"We still need to set out safe landing procedures and ensure that the drone gets to the patient in under 5 minutes, as propeller drones that are able to land vertically can only fly at 50kmh and the minimum weight of a defibrillator is currently 490 grams," explain the researchers.

But it could be worth the work, as the experts say in their study: a Swedish experiment recently showed that in an urban environment, drones arrived at the scene before the emergency services in 32% of cases. This increased to 93% in rural settings.


Allianz Partners



(1). The cost of this kind of drone is estimated at €15,000 in Belgium, compared with €150,000 for a traditional ambulance used to perform this type of procedure.

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