U.S. company develops ‘drone ambulances’

World Today

U.S. company develops drone ambulances

Drones are used in many businesses – from aerial photography to inventory management in massive warehouses. But they are relatively untapped tools in health care – until now. One company wants to use drones to save lives.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

It is a nightmare scenario for any rapid response team, when an accident causes a huge traffic jam, blocking the path of emergency vehicles. Help though could soon be at hand.

Medical Express Ambulance Service, or MedEx, is developing a concept ‘drone ambulance’ that aims to carry emergency medical supplies direct to the scene.

“Every second counts, or in our world – minutes equal brain cells or heart cells,” Michael Pieroni, MedEx’s director of operations says. “The faster we get oxygen into a patient, whether that is to their brain or their heart, the better it is for that patient’s recovery.”

MedEx is partnering with drone maker Lockheed Martin to develop a much larger drone that can carry heavier supplies.

But given that most medical supplies require specialized training, questions remain as to whether such a system is worth it. MedEx believes there are a host of scenarios whereby a medical drone could be vital.

“I call it like having a little super hero in the back of the ambulance that can go fly anywhere and get you what you need,” Pieroni says. “We envision a world where that drone could carry an automatic external defibrillator to the scene before the ambulance even gets there.” 

But barriers remain. Current U.S. regulations do not allow drones to fly beyond the visual line of sight. The industry hopes that legislation will change within the next few years.

“I think there is a reality somewhere down the road where there could be autonomous unmanned ambulances,” Andy Osantouske, an Unmanned Systems Analyst says. “The drone can be cheaper than a traditional manned aircraft but quicker transporting the patient on the ground.”

In the meantime, the focus for the drone project is on the accidents and emergencies of today. It might not be long before a drone comes to your rescue.