It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s a defibrillator drone!

February 13, 2019

If you’re on campus Feb. 20-27 and think you’re being followed by a giant robotic hummingbird, rest easy.

AED-Drone Project team members (l-r) Dr. Jessica Zègre-Hemsey, co-investigator, Dr. Wayne Rosamond, Brittany Bogle and Chris Cunningham conducted a drone test recently at N.C. State University.

AED-Drone Project team members (l-r) Dr. Jessica Zègre-Hemsey, co-investigator, Dr. Wayne Rosamond, Brittany Bogle and Chris Cunningham conducted a drone test recently at N.C. State University.

Wayne Rosamond, PhD, already knows about it.

Rosamond, professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, will be testing the feasibility of delivering medical equipment via drone to people in need.

Drones will launch from several sites throughout campus, including the Old Well. Anyone outside on or near campus may see or hear the drones.

During the tests, Rosamond  and his research team will investigate whether the autonomous devices can deliver defibrillators to people experiencing cardiac arrest. The process would provide bystanders with access to emergency medical services before an ambulance arrives.

Only 6 percent of those who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive, despite advancements in emergency cardiac care and placement of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places. For every minute without defibrillation, chances of survival decrease by 10 percent.

“Even when there may be AEDs around, they are rarely used, and many cardiac arrests occur at home, where AEDs generally are not close by,” Rosamond said. “This is where a drone can really make a difference. If we can get a drone to bring the AED to the scene of a cardiac arrest quickly, when the only other option for defibrillation is to wait for an ambulance, it could save lives.”

The study will start with a test flight of the drone on Feb. 20. On Feb. 21, a ‘dress rehearsal’ will include the positioning of people who will simulate the cardiac emergency situation and the call for an AED via drone. Drone flights on Feb. 22, 25, 26 and 27 will be part of a mock simulation, with people acting out the roles of the cardiac emergency patient and the bystander who calls for assistance.

Rosamond and his team will conduct 36 tests of the flying AEDs across the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, with flights occurring periodically through April.


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Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@listserv.unc.edu.

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