In times of emergency, a drone is often the cheapest and most efficient way to find a missing person, deliver needed medicine, or survey a disaster scene.

A Drone Just Might Save Your Life Someday

Len Calderone for | RoboticsTomorrow


Drones have many uses—from military strikes to package delivery. One of the most important uses is to save lives. In times of emergency, a drone is often the cheapest and most efficient way to find a missing person, deliver needed medicine, or survey a disaster scene.

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In the case of cardiac arrest, it could take an EMT ten or more minutes to get to the scene. Brain death occurs in 4 – 6 minutes. An emergency drone can get a defibrillator to a patient within a 5 square mile zone within a minute, increasing the chance of survival from 8 percent to 80 percent.

The drone tracks emergency mobile calls and uses GPS to navigate to the crisis. Once at the scene, a paramedic can watch, talk and instruct the person helping the victim by using an on-board camera connected to a control room via a livestream webcam.

If help can get to an emergency scene faster, many lives can be saved. This is particularly true for emergencies such as heart failure, drownings, traumas and respiratory problems. Such medical response is possible because of life-saving technologies, such as a defibrillator that is small enough to be transported by a drone.

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Lifeguards’ jobs might soon be made easier, as a drone is able to drop life preservers to drowning victims, especially when faced with a rip tide. The drone can also help find unconscious victims, and then drop aid once the lifeguard gets to the victim. This benefits the lifeguards, as they can swim unhindered by not carrying aid, enabling the lifeguard to reach the victim sooner.

This same drone can be used by the Coast Guard when they are a distance from a capsized boat. Aside from dropping multiple flotation devices to conscious victims to buy time until the Coast Guard reaches them, GPS transmitters in the flotation devices enable the Coast Guard to pull the survivors from the cold water faster.

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Drones are enhancing rescue efforts by replacing helicopters and night vision goggles. Search and rescue missions can be dangerous, time consuming and exhaustive for first responders. Now, drones can provide support that saves time and eliminates hundreds of volunteers by scanning the darkness through thick trees, water or rocks to find those in trouble.

Using thermal heat scans, drones have saved many in need of rescue by finding lost hikers and auto occupants, whose cars broke down in desolate areas, keeping them from spending freezing nights exposed to the elements in an emergency situation.

Snow drone[15]

The Snow Cyclops is a multi-purpose Unmanned Arial Vehicle used on snow covered mountains. It can avert avalanches by probing for probable risk zones near a ski resort or above a mountain road. The drone can carry explosives that can be used to start preventative avalanches.

It can also be used to perform search and rescue missions to find victims of an avalanche, who are trapped under the snow by using thermal cameras and sending the information to a rescue team. The average survival time in an avalanche is about twenty minutes, making the locating of victims time-critical. A drone can deliver a rescue kit to lost hikers at a much lower cost than a helicopter.

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Fighting fires is dangerous in itself, but entering a building to recue people that are trapped could be fatal to firefighters. Now, trapped victims can be found using the Firestorm rescue drone. Instead of rushing in blindly, firefighters can send in the Firestorm, reducing the danger to the firefighters. With its advanced array of sensors, Firestorm improves the likelihood of finding the victim.

The drone uses traditional and thermal cameras even in heavy smoke density. Equipped with carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide sensors, the drone can detect dangerous gases at the scene. The drone can even communicate with the victim, while the rescue squad heads directly to the victim’s location. In some cases, bright LEDs can help disoriented victims find their way to safety.

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The East Coast just suffered tremendous damage from hurricane Mitchell, one of the largest hurricanes to strike the coast. This left people stranded, many without power to keep emergency medicine refrigerated, or without life-saving prescriptions, because the pharmacies were closed.

In the wake of disasters, one of the most serious problems is that of accessibility. Rescue workers repeatedly are faced with situations where they know that people are stranded but they can’t help due to a lack of access. It may be because the transportation infrastructure is destroyed, flooding or power lines across roads.

At times like these, drones are very advantageous. If a person calls or sends a text message from an inaccessible area which has been struck with a disaster, the drone is able to map the GPS signature of the device; and then carry food, medicine and other needed items to the victim.

Already in parts of Africa, drones are being used to transport life-saving medicine to remote villages. This same type of service could be used in the U.S. to get medicine to disaster areas. UNICEF and the Malawi government expect to use a drone, which is operated through a mobile phone app, to replace motorbikes and reduce waiting times for medical results of blood sent to labs for HIV testing.

This is the first known use of UAVs on the continent for improvement of HIV services. Matternet co-founder Paola Santana said it would be easier to use the drones in Malawi because of its closely located health structures. Apart from Malawi, UAVs are also being used in Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Switzerland.

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Just when you think it’s safe to go into the water, you hear there is a shark cruising the ocean near the beach, looking for a tasty morsel—you.  After experiencing fourteen shark attacks last year, the Australian state of New South Wales has turned to drones for help. The state government's new shark strategy calls for drones to monitor the waters around southeast Australia, and that's what the Westpac Little Ripper will do.

The helicopter-shaped drone carries a “pod” that contains rescue gear, including a locator beacon, inflatable three-person life raft and even shark repellent. The pod can be dropped down to a swimmer in distress. The drone, made in the United States, helps guard swimmers and surfers from shark threats. When dangerous sharks are spotted, the Little Ripper could then pass that information to lifeguards and emergency services teams who can then warn people of potentially dangerous waters.

The potential of UAVs is staggering because of their speed, versatility, and ability to traverse rough terrain at low altitudes. With the addition of machine vision, drones are perfect for assessing danger and assisting in the rescue of people in trouble.

The full potential of drones has hardly been recognized and many opportunities abound to save more lives. Drones make the world a better, safer place.



Len Calderone - Contributing Editor

Len contributes to this publication on a regular basis. Past articles can be found with an Article Search and his profile on our Associates Page

He also writes short stores that always have a surprise ending. These can be found at


Len Calderone
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of RoboticsTomorrow

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