Rosamond awarded translational research grant to explore public health use of aerial drones

January 2, 2018

Dr. Wayne Rosamond

Dr. Wayne Rosamond

Wayne Rosamond, PhD, professor of epidemiology at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been awarded more than $49,700 from the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS) and North Carolina State University (NCSU) to determine the feasibility of having drones deliver automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to locations where they are needed.

The grant is administered by the NC TraCS/NCSU Collaborative Translational Research Pilot Grant Program.

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is a significant health problem in the United States. Only 6 percent of those who experience such events survive, despite advancements in emergency cardiac care and placement of AEDs in public places. Chances of survival decrease by 10 percent every minute without defibrillation, and often, there are barriers to timely access to emergency medical services.

AEDs used by witnesses to the cardiac event can save lives, but they are used in fewer than 2 percent of the instances because they are difficult to locate and rarely available in homes, where 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, have potential to deliver an AED to a witness prior to the arrival of an ambulance. To date, no studies have assessed the feasibility of AED delivery by drones.

“Our study will provide insights about human-drone interaction and will demonstrate the feasibility of drone use for AED delivery,” Rosamond said. “We also will quantify the potential benefit of drone arrival compared to a bystander’s retrieval of an AED.”

“Wayne’s project is highly innovative,” said Andrew Olshan, PhD, Barbara Sorenson Hulka Distinguished Professor in Cancer Epidemiology and chair of the Gillings School epidemiology department. “His work will have real-world implications for emergency care and public health.”

Rosamond will collaborate on the project with co-principal investigator Kyle Snyder, MS, A-MBA, director of the NextGen Air Transportation Center at NCSU’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education and with Jessica Zegre-Hemsey, PhD, RN, assistant professor of nursing at the UNC School of Nursing.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or