Welsh Ambulance Service tests use of delivering defibrillators via drone

The Welsh Ambulance Service, in partnership with the University of Warwick and SkyBound, is exploring the feasibility of delivering a defibrillator via drone following a 999 call, by a conducting a number of test flights through the Drone-Delivered Defibrillators study.

The study, originally funded by Resuscitation Council UK, has received additional funding from National Institute of Health Research and Health and Care Research Wales to enable it to enter its next phase. Over the summer, a research team will perform long-stance ‘beyond visual line of sight’ flights, with the aim of demonstrating how real-time communications between the 999 control room and a drone operation team would work during a cardiac arrest call.

Additionally, researchers will interview people who have helped somebody in a real-life cardiac arrest event, in order to understand the difference that a drone-delivered  defibrillator could potentially have made.

Dr Christopher Smith, clinical lecturer in emergency medicine at the University of Warwick, comments: “Early CPR and defibrillation are crucial if we are to improve survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Drones may be one way of getting a life-saving defibrillator to more patients faster than before.

“This project allows us to optimise the processes required and is an important step in making an effective drone-delivered defibrillator system a reality for the UK in the near future.”

Gemma Alcock, chief executive at SkyBound, adds that the collaboration “represents a significant step forward in leveraging technology to potentially save lives, particularly in remote areas where access to defibrillators can be challenging.”

She notes that SkyBound’s involvement “underscores the very reason SkyBound came into fruition, as the initial inspiration came from the experience I gained as a beach lifeguard where I dealt with a life-critical incident. This was the foundation of our commitment to harnessing innovative drone solutions to enhance emergency response and ultimately, save lives.”

The study is set to conclude in October 2024, with results expected to be made available early next year.

Last month, HTN highlighted a report developed by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives in partnership with NHS Providers and NHS Confederation, which called for the “radical re-design” of urgent and emergency care and long-term planning and highlights the need to be “better prepared for the emerging impacts of advancing technologies”.

From Wales, we also recently explored the draft organisation strategy 2024-2030 from Digital Health and Care Wales, which sets out strategic objectives for digital across health and care, including infrastructure, data platform, open architecture, innovation, workforce and more.