The drone revolution that’s sweeping the globe is revolutionizing every commercial market and the healthcare industry is no exception, asserts Kevin Kelly, President & COO of Stampede, North America’s leading provider of ProAV solutions. With high-speed capabilities and the latest telecommunication technology, drones have the capacity to help save lives on an unprecedented scale, modernizing how emergency situations are handled in both individual and community-wide cases.
“The healthcare industry is under pressure to modernize and update just about every area of its operations, from the delivery of new treatment protocols to record management to assisting in case-by-case emergency situations,” Kelly said. “Drones will play a major role in modernizing healthcare in ways that we are just starting to understand.”
Drones are already being tested in the medical field with the delivery of vaccines, medications and supplies to remote locations. Matternet, a smart drone transportation manufacturer, conducted its first field trials in Haiti by successfully delivering small packages to a camp devastated by the 2010 earthquake that brought the country to its knees. “This one instance proved that drones have significant implications in the delivery of medicine,” Kelly said. “When road vehicles cannot reach a devastated area, drones can be used to bring medicine and supplies to people in need.”
Global drone use in the medical field is spreading. According to Quartz, the World Health Organization and the government of Bhutan teamed up with Matternet this year to build a network of low-cost quadcopters to connect the country’s main hospitals with rural communities. “With only .3 physicians per 1,000 people, healthcare is a serious problem for the Bhutanese population,” Kelly said. “Matternet’s quadcopters can carry loads of up to four pounds across 20 km at a time, which makes a substantial difference in delivering medicine to the community.”
Drones have also been tested for use in individual emergency situations. In the Netherlands, Alec Momont, an engineering student at TU Delft in Delft, designed an “ambulance drone” specifically developed to combat the high mortality rate of cardiac arrest victims. According to Slate, the “ambulance drone” is capable of traveling at speeds up to 60 mph, and is fully equipped with an on-board camera, which allows a remote operator to talk to a victim and provide emergency instructions to whoever is with the victim on the ground. “According to Momont, a drone’s speedy response time and on-scene assistance capabilities could increase cardiac arrest survival rates to more than 80 percent,” Kelly emphasized. “And that’s a significant number.”
While the FAA has not yet extensively tested medical drone use in the United States, they are in the process of developing standards and guidelines for the safe and legal use of drones in commercial applications, in ways that do not violate an individual’s right to privacy, says Kelly.
“When approved, drones will have the ability to serve as life-saving and life-giving resource for a healthcare industry increasingly challenged to find new, safe, and cost-effective ways to deliver much needed medicine to remote locations, gather data needed to assist medical personnel in an unfolding crisis, and provide information to an individual trying to assist someone in need,” Kelly said. “In a very real way, drones are just what the doctor ordered to help modernize the global healthcare industry.”