Research conducted by the Centre for Resuscitation Science at Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm South General (Söder) Hospital in Sweden demonstrated the use of drones in increasing survival from cardiac arrest.

The researchers showed that a specially constructed drone with a defibrillator can be dispatched using an alarm and delivered automatically to the site of a cardiac arrest before the arrival of an ambulance.

Developed in collaboration with engineers from FlyPulse, the new drone is said to be a uniquely adapted ambulance.

Centre for Resuscitation Science lead researcher and paramedic Andreas Claesson said: “This study clearly shows that unmanned aircraft, drones, show great potential in being able to deliver a defibrillator long before an ambulance arrives, particularly in remote areas.”

During the research, the drone was dispatched and automatically delivered within a 10km radius.

The device was flown out of view of the pilot from Älmsta rescue services to a destination in the Norrtälje municipality. Between 2006 and 2013, an ambulance had to be sent on 18 incidents of cardiac arrest in this area.

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"Drones able to deliver defibrillators can reach the patient inside the first few minutes and are thus a new and important complement to existing emergency services."

When comparing arrival times, the test-flown drone was found to take three seconds, from alarm, to become airborne and an average time from alarm to arrival at the site of cardiac arrest of around five minutes, which is 16 minutes shorter than the time recorded when using an ambulance.

The Swedish Transport Agency and the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration have granted permission to fly the drone out of sight during the research.

Claesson further added: “Drones able to deliver defibrillators can reach the patient inside the first few minutes and are thus a new and important complement to existing emergency services.

“With an early shock from a defibrillator within the first 3-5 minutes after cardiac arrest, up to 70% of patients can survive the event.”

Image: Specially constructed drone to equip a defibrillator. Photo: courtesy of Karolinska Institutet.