Flying doctors and air ambulance services have been saving lives for years, but a medical drone which can deliver live-saving equipment to an accident scene within 60 seconds could really make the difference between life and death.

The first few minutes of an accident are critical to the survival of the casualty, particularly in the case of heart failure, drowning, trauma and respiratory issues. A quick response is essential, but getting a fully-equipped ambulance and paramedics to an accident scene quickly is not always possible or practical.

That’s where the Ambulance Drone could literally come to the rescue. The airborne first aid kit is essentially a toolbox equipped with medical supplies and a communication channel featuring a webcam. In the event of an emergency, paramedics can despatch the drone to the scene of an accident at once, and without roads or traffic to hinder its progress, it can cover an area of 12km (7.5 miles) inside a minute.

The video above shows how the Ambulance Drone could be used in a medical emergency.

Photo credit: Alec Momont/TU Delft

The idea was developed by Alec Momont, from the Delft University of Technology as part of his Master Graduation thesis research project, which focused on saving lives within the first minute of an accident.

“Within this project the focus laid on using drones for a good purpose,” he said.

The custom-designed drone can carry compact medical equipment such as an automated external defibrillator (AED), medication or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) equipment. The drone’s small size means it can be used anywhere – even indoors.

The communication channel for video and audio means those attending at the scene can communicate with emergency operators who can provide instructions, improving the quality of the care.

Photo credit: Alec Momont/TU Delft

The first prototype focuses on carrying an Automated Defibrillator that can be used to treat cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest affects 800,000 people a year, yet has just an 8% survival rate – partly because of the slow response time, which is typically 10 minutes. Moment believes that when that Ambulance Drone is deployed, survival rates could be as high as 80%.

“The Ambulance Drone helps to save lives by extending existing emergency infrastructure with a network of fast and compact unmanned aerial vehicles capable of bringing emergency supplies and establishing communication anywhere.”

The drones will cost around €15,000 (£11,800) each, which seems steep until you consider that just one could save many lives. 

Momont has already had interest from the medical sector and is now looking for funding to continue the development of his project.

He believes it will take five years for the Ambulance Drone to become a reality - new Dutch legislation is expected to be passed next year and the device has yet to be tested on real patients.

Find out more about Alec's work here.

Video credit: Alec Moment/TU Delft filmed by http://samyandary.com