Drones have infiltrated almost all aspects of our lives. They have even infiltrated the medical world. One of the most useful ways drones have emerged in the medical world is as a vehicle for delivery of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to bystanders who use it to save an individual who is experiencing cardiac arrest. Research by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has shown that a drone can deliver an AED approximately 16 minutes faster than an ambulance during out-of-hospital incidents of cardiac arrest. While this research did not examine real-life circumstances, it simulated past incidences to compare speeds.

The Swedish Transportation Agency built the drone used in this research study, equipping it with an AED, GPS and a high-definition camera with an autopilot software system. JAMA conducted the testing in Sweden, using the Swedish Registry for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation times to examine the difference between the simulation and ambulance times.

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates are just 8-10 percent with time to defibrillation being the key component in boosting an individual’s chance of survival. If you are shocked with an AED within a minute, you have a 90 percent chance of living.  Dr. Clyde Yancy, a former president of the American Heart Association, said, “Ninety percent of people who collapse outside of a hospital don’t make it. This is a crisis and it’s time we do something different to address it.”

While this research certainly points us toward greater use of drones in the medical context, especially when it comes to cardiac arrest, the research study was limited as it was conducted in mostly good, clear weather during only a few mile trips. According to one of the researchers, “Saving 16 minutes is likely to be clinically important. Nonetheless, further test flights, technological development, and evaluation of integration with dispatch centers and aviation administrators are needed. The outcomes of [out-of-hospital cardiac arrest] using the drone-delivered AED by bystanders vs. resuscitation by [emergency medical services] should be studied.”