It sounds futuristic: drones carrying heart defibrillators swooping in to help bystanders revive people stricken by cardiac arrest.
Researchers in Chicago tested the idea by using small drones to carry heart defibrillators to homes where people had cardiac arrests.
The drones arrived about 5 minutes after launching — almost 17 minutes faster than ambulances. That’s a big deal for a condition where minutes mean life or death. The next step is to test the idea on real patients.
The researchers used a small heart defibrillator weighing less than two pounds, featuring an electronic voice that gives instructions on how to use the device. It was attached to a small drone equipped with four small propeller-like rotors, a global positioning device, and camera.
They launched the drone from a fire station within about 6 miles from homes where people had previous cardiac arrests.
There were no crashes or other mishaps during the study.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires that commercial operators obtain a pilot’s license and keep the drones in their sightlines. Drones are allowed to fly no higher than 400 feet off the ground during daylight hours.
Legislation enacted in 2015 made Maryland one of only three states to grant the state government exclusive power to regulate drone usage, preempting municipalities and counties from enacting their own ordinances. MACo opposed this legislation as a preemption of county authority and was able to secure an amendment to assess the need for new laws or local tools after three years of industry maturation.
MACo, along with the Maryland State Police, are among the stakeholders charged with evaluating any safety or security problems arising from drone use as the industry expands in the years ahead. The stakeholder group will report its findings to the governor in 2018.