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Everdrone Makes Drone-Delivered Defibrillators Available to 80,000 in Sweden

BY Zacc Dukowitz
11 November 2020

Since June, Everdrone has been delivering Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) by drone to people experiencing cardiac arrest.

Autonomous drones are now delivering defibrillators to 80,000 residents in Sweden

When an emergency call comes in to SOS Alarm (the Swedish equivalent of 911) that appears to be for someone experiencing cardiac arrest, a drone with a defibrillator is deployed to their location.

The deliveries are part of a clinical study taking place in the Gothenburg area of Sweden, where they’re available to over 80,000 residents. The study is using three drone systems from Everdrone, placed strategically in a 3.7 mile (6 kilometer) radius throughout the city.

A remarkable aspect of the defibrillator drone delivery program is that it is fully integrated with emergency dispatch. This integration is enabled by the delivery program’s partnership with Sweden’s national emergency call center, SOS Alarm.

By combining our state-of-the-art drone platform and know-how in the regulatory space, we are finally able to launch this life-saving application.

– Mats Sällström, CEO of Everdrone

Everdrone’s second partner in the delivery program is the institution overseeing the study, the Centre for Resuscitation Science at the Karolinska Institutet (KI).

How the Defibrillator Drone Delivery Program Works

According to Everdrone, out-of-hospital cardiac arrests affect about 275,000 people in Europe every year. Only 10% of the people who experience them survive.

Early intervention can have a huge impact on survival—if CPR and defibrillation are started within the first few minutes after cardiac arrest begins, the survival rate can jump from 10% up to as high as 70%.

And this is where the Everdrone’s just-in-time defibrillator delivery comes in.

By enabling the rapid delivery of defibrillators, the researchers who designed the study are hoping to demonstrate a significant increase in survival rates for cardiac arrest.

Here are the details of how the defibrillator delivery program works:

  • Drone immediately dispatched. When a case of cardiac arrest is called in to SOS Alarm, a drone equipped with a defibrillator is dispatched at the same time as an ambulance. Given the urban environment, the drone will almost always arrive well ahead of the ambulance.
  • AED lowered. Upon arriving, the drone hovers at an altitude of 98 feet (30 meters) and lowers the defibrillator to the ground using a winch (as shown in the picture below).
  • AED used. As the drone is lowering the defibrillator, its operators are ready to instruct bystanders on how to use it to save the life of the person undergoing cardiac arrest, if needed.

Photo credit: Everdrone

The delivery method Everdrone is using for the defibrillator program could work in almost any environment, but is especially useful for urban environments, where trying to land a drone in order to make a delivery could be impractical, or even dangerous.

The method of lowering the defibrillator from the drone with the help of a winch is something we have been developing and testing for a long time. We have performed countless test deliveries in recent months, and the results show that the method works very well.

– Mats Sällström, CEO of Everdrone

Regulatory Considerations

In order to launch the defibrillator delivery program, Everdrone had to obtain a unique permit from the Swedish Transport Agency.

Getting permission for this kind of autonomous, BVLOS drone delivery, which may require flying over people, is fairly unique from a regulatory standpoint. According to Everdrone, it is one of only a few companies in the world to be granted permission for urban drone operations like these.

Safety is at the core of everything we do at Everdrone. Even though the drones we use are extremely safe in themselves, we still need to foresee every conceivable fault scenario and put solutions in place to handle them.

– Mats Sällström, CEO of Everdrone

Everdrone’s UAVs use several features to help mitigate risk, including:

  • A flight system that features industry-leading obstacle avoidance functionality built on Intel® RealSense™ technology
  • Intelligent route planning to reduce flight time over people
  • A certified onboard parachute system to mitigate risk to people on the ground in case the drone falls from the sky

Photo credit: Everdrone

Another company that has secured approval for delivering defibrillators by drone is Flirtey. In March of 2019, the U.S.-based drone delivery company received a waiver from the FAA to fly BVLOS in the city of Reno in order to make medical drone deliveries as part of the city’s involvement in the UAS IPP.

At the time, Flirtey’s immediate plans for the waiver were to use it for the delivery of AEDs.

Next Steps for the Study

The defibrillator delivery study in Sweden was supposed to run from June through the end of September of this year.

We asked Mats Sällström, Everdrone’s CEO, if he could share data about how many deployments had been made and how many lives had been saved since the program launched. He informed us that this data is being kept private by the research team running the study until it can publish them, which is slated to happen in January of 2021.

However, he did share that:

  • System and operational routines have performed according to expectations.
  • Live emergency drone dispatches have continuously been carried out during the study period, June through September.

*Hat tip to UAV Coach community forum member AV8Chuck for requesting the above data—thanks for nudging us to take a deeper dive here, Chuck.

Although we don’t have specific data from the study, the results appear to be promising. In September, Everdrone announced that the AED delivery program would be extended to parts of Denmark by 2021, and deliveries continue to be made in the Gothenburg area.

The initial delivery program in Denmark will reach about 100,000 people. Combined with the program in Sweden, which is also expanding, Everdrone projects that they will be able to deliver defibrillators to 200,000 people total by the end of March, 2021.

The research project in Sweden is running along as planned and final evaluation of feasibility will take place during autumn. We believe there is great potential in this novel system, however further investigation is needed regarding the effect on a wider scale.

– Andreas Claesson, Principal Investigator for the project at KI

The data that has been gathered so far in the study is being compiled and evaluated by the Karolinska Institutet. Researchers plan to submit the study’s findings for publication once they complete their analysis.

Everdrone is working to expand defibrillator deliveries within Sweden, and projects that the service will be available to 500,000 Swedish and Danish residents combined by the end of 2021.

Know of other medical drone delivery programs that are actively saving lives? Join the conversation in this thread on the UAV Coach community forum.

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