The William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Hattiesburg, Miss., has developed what it says is the first fully equipped multi-rotor drone with telemedicine capability.
Dr. Italo Subbarao, an associate dean and associate professor at the school, and Guy Paul Cooper Jr., a third-year Carey medical student from Wheaton, Ill., have been working on the project since last year.
Called Healthcare Integrated Rescue Operations (HiRO), the project uses a modified DJI S1000+ drone, which is capable of carrying an advanced, 20-pound telemedical kit and delivering it to someone in need of medical attention in areas where emergency personnel may not be able to reach quickly.
The team is currently conducting demonstrations of the prototype and building additional modular kits. A cardiac kit has already been assembled and is in the testing stages. Subbarao and Cooper are planning Ebola and trauma kits in the near future.
“The purpose of the project is to get timely life-saving medications, vaccines and equipment to victims in a disaster area or in a remote location through the use of GPS,” explains Subbarao. “Embedded inside of the kit is a smartphone, which enables a live video chat between the injured party and the physician.”
He adds, “The drone can be enabled with advanced features, including a sensor that can detect hazardous chemicals. It could fly over an area and then sound an alarm that could tell firemen or emergency medical personnel not to enter.”
Cooper believes the project’s value can be found in its ability to avoid obstacles traditionally faced in health care delivery.
“HiRO can overcome obstacles such as traffic and hazardous materials, but it also has the ability to give emergency responders a quick survey of a crisis scene and a way to provide treatment,” he says.
Subbarao adds, “Although the project is still in the quality-control testing stages, we believe it can transform health care delivery around the world.”
A demonstration video of HiRO is available here.