Osteopathic Physician Introduces Medical Disaster Drones

Two new disaster drones delivered telemedical packages to victims and rescue personnel in a simulated mass casualty event yesterday at John Bell Airport in Bolton, Miss.

The technology debuted before an audience that included Gov. Phil Bryant, R-Miss., and representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal law enforcement agencies and the United Nations. Both kits incorporated DHS recommendations provided through the “Stop the Bleed” initiative.

The Telemedical Drone Project, known as HiRO (Health Integrated Rescue Operations), was developed by Italo Subbarao, a senior associate dean at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine (WCUCOM), and Guy Paul Cooper Jr., a fourth-year medical student at WCUCOM.

The concept arose when the two studied the medical response to the EF-4 tornado that struck Hattiesburg, Miss., in February 2013. In the past two years, they’ve developed multiple prototypes to support rural and wilderness medical emergencies, including the newest iterations: ambulance drones designed to support victims and rescue personnel during mass shootings, bombings or other terrorist attacks

“Reaching the victims is the critical challenge in these situations,” explains Subbarao. “As an osteopathic physician, my goal was to find ways to help save lives. A medical drone is the bridge that delivers life-saving treatment directly to the victims – giving remote physicians eyes, ears and voice to instruct anyone on-site.”

“The two highly advanced mobile telemedical kits provide immediate and secure access to a provider on the other end of the screen,” says Cooper. “The package was designed for use in the chaos and confusion where guidance must be simple, direct and user-friendly. We feel that the features in these kits empower the provider and bystander to save lives.”

When the critical care kit opens, the physician appears on video and can direct treatment. The kit includes Google Glass, which allows the wearer to be hands-free and to move away from the drone while maintaining audio and visual contact with the physician.

Experts from Hinds Community College (HCC), in collaboration with Subbarao and Cooper, designed and built both disaster drones, which are capable of carrying telemedical packages in adverse conditions.

“These drones have impressive lift and distance capability and can be outfitted with a variety of sensors, such as infrared, to help locate victims,” adds Dennis Lott, director of the unmanned aerial vehicle program at Hinds Community College. “Working together, we’re able to develop test, and bring this technology to the field. It is just a matter of time before the drones are universally adopted for emergency and disaster response toolkits.”


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