When a 71-year-old man from Trollhättan, Sweden had a sudden cardiac arrest last month, help arrived in the most unlikely of ways – a drone carrying a defibrillator that would save his life. In what is described as the first defibrillator delivery by drone in medical history, the fast-acting delivery system allowed Dr Mustafa Ali, who was driving by when he saw the man collapse, to begin defibrillation before the ambulance arrived, playing a huge role in saving the man's life.
“I can’t put into words how thankful I am to this new technology and the speedy delivery of the defibrillator. If it wasn’t for the drone I probably wouldn’t be here,” said the 71-year-old patient in a statement to Everdrone.
The man has since made a full recovery and has returned home.
The time between the call being made to emergency services and the arrival of the drone was just over three minutes, significantly shorter than the average ambulance response time in Sweden, which is between five and 10 minutes in urban areas. It is thought that for every minute that passes after cardiac arrest without defibrillation, the chance of survival reduces 7-10 percent. After five minutes, the chance of survival is extremely slim and as a result, the survival rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests is less than 10 percent, highlighting the importance of a rapid deployment system. Everdrone considers the best method to be aerial drones.
As such, the company has been operating its drone-based defibrillator system in the region Västra Götaland, Sweden, in collaboration with the Center for Resuscitation Science at Karolinska Institutet and SOS Alarm. They claim to currently have a range of around 200,000 residents in Sweden and expect to expand to many more in 2022.
During a four-month pilot study conducted in 2021, the company successfully delivered defibrillation devices for 92 percent – 11 out of 12 – of the cardiac arrest alerts that were attempted. Of those, seven arrived before the ambulance could.
“This is a truly revolutionary technology that needs to be implemented all over; sudden cardiac arrests can happen to anyone, not just old people with arteriosclerosis,” said the patient.
These are no ordinary drones. Owing to a dedicated team of software engineers at their Mission Control Centre, each drone comes with a route-planning system, onboard obstacle avoidance system, emergency parachutes, and an automated landing system to land safely near the patient. The drones are autonomous, so they can be dispatched by emergency services en-route to a patient, which would likely have landed by the time they arrive.