Numerous attempts and activities have been made to use drones to improve medical services. One of the common applications documented by various journals and tested by various agencies is ambulatory air services.
These agencies and documents note that the potential of drones to improve the sector is vast and will likely expand in the future.
Currently, drones are used for communication, surveillance, medical kit delivery, and remote service delivery, especially in disaster zones. As the capabilities change, such as the inclusion of AI, drones are estimated to run independent search and rescue services without heavily relying on ambulatory air teams.
Here are some applications and how they boost efficiency in ambulatory air services.
Why Use Air Ambulance Drones?
Air ambulance drones are amongst the latest applications of drones for ambulatory services. Here are some possible or already-known applications of air ambulance drones:
1. Remote Emergency Ambulatory Services
One of the possible applications is to use them as communication and scenario analysis tools. There are some areas where it is challenging to reach via ambulances or helicopters. This is because of potential risks to the helicopters or the lack of a proper landing zone to perform the rescue mission.
The drone can be used to assess the area and decide on how to execute the rescue. They will be essential for communicating with the patients or assessing their medical conditions while the air ambulance medical teams prepare to execute rescue or treatment operations.
However, when using drones for reconnaissance activities, there is a need to abide by privacy, confidentiality, and consent rules and guidelines. Any drone used for medical services must comply with HIPAA regulations since they are connected to medical systems to relay information and collect data about the patient.
Due to such interactions, all medical data and information must be protected and guaranteed by drone operation agencies.
The other concern is outsourced agencies are running these drones. Once you acquire an air ambulance drone, the hospital team must learn how to operate and maintain the drones. During the training, external authorities can access medical data, and the drone must be synced to the hospital medical database to be an effective component of the air ambulatory services.
A reliable drone vendor complies with the data regulations to ensure the drones are safe for medical services usage, i.e., data access and collection.
2. Mass Casualty Services
One of the challenges the medical team must deal with is mass casualty incidents which are mass injuries caused by tragedies such as floods, volcanic activities, earthquakes, and other disasters. In such instances, the team will likely be overwhelmed with activities, and sometimes they may run out of resources needed to offer faster services.
Since helicopters are large enough, they cannot fly more of them within a limited air space. The only option is to seek other smaller services to help the team on the ground. Drones are the right tools for such instances due to their versatility and flexibility than other resources such as helicopters.
They can be used for various services, including distributing all the medical gear to the team on the ground. Moreover, they help with other duties to ensure all minor emergencies and injuries are attended to faster through drone services. The helicopters and other emergency services will be involved in major operations such as airlifting and rescue.
3. Disaster Response Services
In events of disasters such as floods and quakes, drones can be used for surveillance activities by collecting surveillance data and remitting it to emergency teams to prepare for operations. They are an ideal element of ambulatory services, primarily when used in remote areas.
Some remote application scenarios are evidenced by using drones in Taiwan in the 2016 earthquakes and Philippines typhoon rescue operations.
They can also be used for supervisory services, which involves the medical staff remotely supervising other medics on the ground to help them offer first aid services and address minor injuries. Since they can play multiple roles, such as providing audio and video services, and storage spaces, they can help in remote medical conversations and provision of all the necessary medications.
Besides that, the remote ambulatory team can assess the injury levels that need further aid, like airlifting to a proper medical facility.
Currently, this is one of the known applications of air ambulance drones, and there are more tests to understand how drones can help in such operations. Such drones are equipped with audio, video, thermal imaging, and network connectivity capabilities to ensure smoother rescue operations and services. Another application is in arctic regions where climatic conditions can harm rescuers.
4. Search and Rescue Services
One critical role of air ambulances is to search and rescue patients in various disasters. This involves flying helicopters in disaster regions, including remote areas, to ensure all the patients are found fast and helped. Due to the limitations, such as the airspace area to fly helicopters, the team can fly drones to the area to increase rescue services and activities.
While searching, they offer high-definition imaging services to scan the ground and identify people needing assistance. The radio items can also communicate to the patients to help the team spot the patients fast.
Another capability is the deep learning capability which enables the drones to identify human gestures and respond. Other search and rescue operations are tested in hiking and skiing to rescue teams buried in the snow.
Due to the changing capabilities and systems, drones continue to revolutionize ambulatory air services. They are essential for remote disaster, search, and rescue operations. Ambulatory teams can also use air ambulance drones to respond to mass disasters and access remote areas where helicopters may not be suitable.