Drone Gets Defibrillator to Man in Just Three Minutes, Saving His Life

BY Zacc Dukowitz
13 January 2022

In a drones for good story out of Sweden, a drone recently helped save a man’s life by delivering an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to his location after he suffered from cardiac arrest.

Credit: Everdrone

A doctor happened to be driving to work at a local hospital in the city of Trollhättan, Sweden when he saw a man collapsed on his driveway.

The doctor, whose name is Mustafa Ali, pulled over to help as soon as he saw the man.

I immediately understood that something was wrong and rushed to help. The man had no pulse, so I started doing CPR while asking another bystander to call 112 (the Swedish emergency number). Just minutes later, I saw something flying above my head. It was a drone with a defibrillator!

– Dr. Mustafa Ali

The man was 71 years old, and had been shoveling snow when he began having a heart attack.

Thanks to the quick delivery, which was made using a drone from Everdrone, the doctor was able to start defibrillation before an ambulance arrived, which helped save the man’s life.

Of course, saving the man’s life relied on a chain of events—the doctor doing CPR, a bystander calling emergency services, and the drone getting the AED there as quickly as possible.

But the story is a clear example of how autonomous drone technology can play a key role in delivering crucial services right when they’re needed, and sometimes even save lives.

It’s also important to note that AEDs are designed so that an untrained person can use them. According to Mats Sällström, the CEO of Everdrone, “In these scenarios you are also on the phone to the emergency center and they can guide you.”

EverDrone’s Work to Make Just-in-Time AEDs Available Everywhere

The company has been rapidly growing its medical drone delivery network over the last few years. In May of 2020 it announced plans to begin delivering defibrillators to 80,000 people in Sweden’s Gothenburg region, a number that was expanded to 200,000 last April.

The drones deployed with AEDs fly to their destinations autonomously, but their operations are supervised by a remote pilot in command.

According to Everdrone, the system to deploy and operate the delivery drones is integrated with the system that oversees emergency dispatch operations, allowing the drone to be ready to fly as soon as an emergency call comes in related to a possible cardiac arrest.

Everdrone’s emergency medical delivery service in action in Sweden

The AED drone delivery network was created in a partnership between Everdrone, the Centre for Resuscitation Science at Karolinska Institutet (KI), and Sweden’s national emergency call center, SOS Alarm.

Everdrone’s narrow focus on only delivering AEDs is backed up by data—every year over a quarter million people in Europe and 350,000 in the U.S. suffer from cardiac arrest. About 70% of these happen at home, where AEDs aren’t available, and due to delays in ambulance response times people often die from these events who could be saved with the help of a defibrillator.

For every minute following cardiac arrest the chances of survival go down by 7-10%, which is why only about 10% of patients survive. And this is why Everdrone began its work to deliver AEDs by drone—to drive down response times.

In a study last year conducted by the Karolinska Institutet, researchers found that:

  • Drones were dispatched to 12 out of 14 cases of suspected cardiac arrest.
  • The drones successfully delivered an AED in all but one of those instances.
  • In seven instances, the drone arrived before the ambulance.

In none of these instances was the AED actually used (for reasons that remain unclear), but the data is revealing about the potential for this approach to speed up deliveries in almost 60% of cases.

Since the AED delivery isn’t an either/or proposition—both the ambulance and the drone are always deployed to the site of a cardiac arrest—getting an AED there faster 60% of the time could literally save lives, given that every minute is crucial following cardiac arrest.

Credit: Everdrone

Everdrone isn’t the only company that has done work to deliver AEDs by drone.

In 2019, Flirtey received permission from the FAA to fly BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) to deliver defibrillators in Reno, NV. However, to our knowledge no lives have actually been saved with these deliveries, and it looks like the company has since pivoted to making commercial drone deliveries instead of medical ones.

At the moment, Everdrone is working to expand its AED drone delivery operations. In the near future we may see new AED drone delivery networks pop up in the U.K., as well as in other parts of Europe.

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