Two disaster drones delivered telemedical packages to disaster victims and rescue personnel via the John Bell Airport in Bolton, Mississippi in a simulated mass casualty event last week. This marks the first time this type of technology hit the skies. These drones are part of the Telemedical Drone Project (also known as HiRO or Health Integrated Rescue Operations) which was created by a senior associate dean, Italo Subbarao, and a medical student, Guy Paul Cooper, Jr., at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine. The idea arose when the two studied medical response to a tornado that struck Hattiesburg, Mississippi in February 2013. These drones were developed as a result of their studies. The drones are designed to support victims and rescue personnel during mass shootings, bombings or other terrorist attacks. Subbarao explains, “Reaching the victims is the critical challenge in these situations. As an osteopathic physician, my goal was to find ways to help save lives. A medical drone is the bridge that delivers life-saving treatment directly to the victims–giving remote physicians eyes, ears, and voice to instruct anyone on-site.” This drone package was designed “for use in the chaos and confusion where guidance must be simple, direct and user-friendly,” says Cooper.
When the drone kit opens, a physician appears on the video screen and can direct treatment. This kit includes Google Glass and allows the wearer to be hands-free and to move away from the drone while maintaining audio and visual contact with the physician. It is just a matter of time before these drones, and many others like it, will see widespread use for emergency and disaster response.