How can drones be improved?

Will the defibrillator come to the patient via a drone soon? In any case, in a randomized study from the USA, modern technology was able to accelerate emergency rescue. Scientists from Germany are convinced that the Defi drone also makes sense in this country.

Drones could optimize emergency rescue by air transporting automated external defibrillators (AED) to the scene.

In a randomized study from the USA, defibrillators like these actually saved time compared to a ground-based AED search: the test subjects had the defibrillator at hand in simulated emergency situations up to three minutes faster when it was brought via a drone as if they were looking for a stationary AED on site.

Defibrillator drones are also being tested in Germany

But do defibrillators even make sense in more densely populated Germany? Scientists from the University Medical Center Greifswald and the DRF Luftrettung are convinced of this and have launched a corresponding pilot project. Because even in this country there are sparsely populated regions where the mobile provision of an AED network offers advantages over stationary installation.

"Especially for large regions, as presented by the Vorpommern-Greifswald district as a model region, it is simply not feasible to install stationary defibrillators across the board," explains Skadi Stier, project manager at DRF Luftrettung, the current situation in Germany at the request of . And even if there are stationary defibrillators, they are not ready for use at all times: "The many public facilities and defibrillators in companies in Germany are often not strategically distributed and just as often are not available 24/7, but are linked to opening times, for example." Dr. Mina Baumgarten, from the University Medical Center Greifswald, who heads the project together with Prof. Klaus Hahnenkamp, ​​further clarifies the problem.

Drones are intended to complement existing structures

If there is no AED on site, the defibrillator could be brought to the first aider via a drone so that he or she can start the resuscitation of a patient with cardiac arrest before the emergency services arrive. The Defi drones should not replace the previous structures, but complement them.

Prof. Klaus Hahnenkamp, ​​Director of the Clinic for Anesthesiology, explains what exactly such an operation could look like: “As in every emergency, it is important that someone present calls the rescue service and, if necessary, starts with a chest compressions, supported by the staff at the control center . The control center then alerts the emergency vehicles, but at the same time also alerts a trained medical helper in the deployment area via a smartphone app, who is guided to the deployment site via the app installed on his mobile phone using a map function. In response to the same signal, a drone loaded with the defibrillator and ready for use in the drone port can fly off to the emergency location with the destination of the mission coordinators. After landing, one of those present can remove the defibrillator and use it on the patient. "

Up to 5 minutes faster than the helicopter

Such a drone rescue was able to outperform the rescue helicopter in terms of speed in a pilot test in 2019. The drones were sometimes up to five minutes faster, reports Stier. In order to further optimize their use, strategically sensible drone locations are being defined in a current project (MV | LIFE | DRONE Challenge). "The advantage here is the possible direct flight route, where rescue vehicles have to travel long distances due to the road layout or cannot travel at the maximum possible speed in high traffic densities," says the aircraft mechanic, emphasizing the potential of the technology.

Blood products could also come via the drone

According to the project members, the drone will in future not only transport the defibrillator, but also other medical devices and materials, such as emergency medication or blood products. "In addition to saving time, this can contribute to better availability, especially with the scarce resource blood," Baumgarten explains the overall concept of the project. The doctor estimates that it will take about one to one and a half years before the operation of the drones is tested in the context of standard care. A corresponding project has already been set up.

"An important role of emergency physicians and cardiologists is to support the regional initiatives for broad training of the population in cardiac massage (lay resuscitation)", Hahnenkamp gives his colleagues on the way.