The Pros and Cons of Using Drones as Emergency First Responders

The Pros and Cons of Using Drones as Emergency First Responders

In any medical emergency, a few minutes can mean the difference between a life saved and imminent death. Ambulances and emergency medical services (EMS) responders try their best to arrive as quickly as possible. However, when it comes to actual response time, they’re still limited by a few factors, one of them being traffic, unlike using drones as emergency first responders they can arrive quickly to the location in actual response time. 

Let’s say a person you love or are related to suddenly suffers a heart attack for which he would need immediate medical attention. You call 911, but then the ambulance gets stuck in traffic for some reason. They do arrive on the scene eventually, but by then, your loved one’s chances of surviving the ordeal will have decreased. 


Thanks to certain technological advancements, the idea of cutting down the average response time of emergency services is now a possibility with the emergence of drones as emergency first responders. Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as they are also called, are essentially flying robots that are either controlled via remote or flown autonomously through software. UAVs are used in a lot of industries, especially in the military, manufacturing, and agricultural industry.

And now, even doctors and medical health professionals are also starting to look into the benefits of using drones to provide lifesaving medications and services at faster the time. A study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition this 2019 revealed that tests were done to find out the arrival times of drones as compared to ambulances, and the former outdid the latter every time, even in settings that simulated rush hour conditions.

The research team conducted approximately 50 test flights, and the results revealed drones to be able to fly at a velocity of 6.54 mph, faster than an ambulance’s average result of 5.04 mph. Thus, they arrived at the scene faster, with a response time of 6.48 minutes compared an ambulance’s 9.54 minutes. 


Pros of Drones as Emergency First Responders

The results of the study revealed the advantages of using drone as emergency first responders technology in providing emergency medical services. For one thing, it quickens the time that medications and services are provided to critical patients. Drones are especially helpful in specific emergency scenarios wherein the intervention or medication is relatively uncomplicated and easy to perform by ordinary people with little medical training and/or time is of the essence when saving a life. Examples of such medical emergencies are acute anaphylaxis, opioid overdose, asthma attacks, cardiac arrests, and even poisoning. Further, anyone using the drone technology to get medical help may be able to get instructions from emergency medical professionals on how to administer the medications or operate the equipment via Skype chat, video calls, or FaceTime. Instead of having to wait several minutes for EMS personnel to arrive, a person gets to be the EMT himself and provide lifesaving procedures in cases when time is of the essence. 

Cons of the Technology

But not everyone is impressed, as there are some who point out certain cons of the technology. For one, there is the fact that even with the delivery of the equipment and medications needed for the lifesaving procedure, there’s the possibility that there might be a lack of ready and capable people who can take over the responsibilities of medical personnel. This means that even if a drones arrives faster than an ambulance with all the necessary equipment and medication, if the medical intervention lies in the hands of an incapable person with minimum to zero medical knowledge, then the time advantage gained by using the drone would have been useless. Not only that, but it also presents certain dangers to the patient himself as there’s the possibility that the person treating him might commit a mistake that will only put him in more danger. Also, having to watch a video or chat with a medical personnel on Skype will still cut into the time saved by the drone. 


Ultimately, drones do present an advantage in the field of providing medical services. But there is still a lot of room for improvement in the way the technology is used and presented as there are flaws in its system that need to be addressed. While technical and logistical issues regarding the use of UAVs in the medical industry exist, its huge potential for saving lives and providing much-needed care cannot be denied. 

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