The County of Renfrew in Ontario, Canada partnered with Cradlepoint, InDro Robotics and Ericsson for trials using the first beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drones that utilise an LTE cellular connection to deliver automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to aid in remote cardiac-arrest emergencies. The trial is one of the first to be carried out in the country and can significantly reduce the time to treatment for people suffering from cardiac arrest, or in the future for the delivery of urgent medications, in private, residential or rural locations.
The LTE-connected drones carrying AEDs were tested at locations within a 10-mile operating radius, allowing drone pilots to fly BVLOS to deliver emergency services to remote locations not easily or quickly accessed by roadways. The combination of advancements in drone technology and pervasive, reliable LTE cellular networks is creating opportunities for first responders to deliver life-saving aid to remote and hard-to-reach patients in need, improving the survival rates for cardiac arrest and other dire medical conditions.
The County of Renfrew Paramedic Service had been successfully using line-of-sight AED drones since 2014. However, it discovered an opportunity to enhance the drones’ range to help more people.
With the operating range of approximately 10 statute miles, and with a nationwide Special Flight Operations Certificate, the program is ready to fly the first LTE-connected drones equipped with AEDs in restricted (F) and unrestricted (C, D, E, G) airspace to respond to cardiac arrest and other emergencies. To achieve this, it required a reliable technology solution that the county can trust to deliver life-saving equipment.
The combined technologies from partner companies come together to create a unique BVLOS drone platform. InDro Robotics is supplying the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Cradlepoint is providing the on-board, rugged IoT router that enables LTE connectivity for control data and video between the vehicle and its pilot over the Rogers LTE Advanced cellular network. And Ericsson is supplying the LTE advanced cellular network infrastructure and LTE/5G research support to understand how commercial cellular networks must evolve. This accelerates large-scale commercial drone deployment over 4G LTE and 5G mission-critical broadband wireless connections to enable cloud/edge computing and AI.
The use of LTE for control and real-time video streaming forms the centrepiece of the County of Renfrew trial and enables its objective to increase the range and reduce time-to-site for remote cardiac arrest victims.
The ranging and varied terrain of the County of Renfrew may hinder the speed at which Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can get to patients for treatment. The ability for the drones to fly BVLOS and in a straight line over any terrain allows first responders to provide aid to sites faster than ever before.
‘What’s particularly innovative and exciting about this trial is the potential of drone-delivered AEDs to have a transformative impact on emergency care for patients suffering cardiac arrest, especially those in remote private, residential or rural settings, where getting emergency treatment rapidly is the difference between life and death,’ said County of Renfrew Paramedic Chief, Mike Nolan.
Flying farther, smarter
With LTE cellular connectivity, the County of Renfrew initiative offers the potential to deliver AEDs to patients up to 80 miles away. To ensure these life-saving deliveries not only get to their destinations but are properly administered, the drones share images and video with the operations team and employ artificial intelligence to manage key functions, such as collision avoidance. These critical capabilities are all made possible by the speed, bandwidth and reliability of the LTE cellular network.
‘The County of Renfrew’s forward-thinking approach to using drones and on-board cellular connectivity to extend the speed and range of delivery for life-saving emergency services represents how connected technology is transforming public safety,’ commented John Campbell, vice president, Public Sector and Canada for Cradlepoint.
The trials on 21–22 September 2019 were a resounding success, with the drone arriving more than 7 minutes before the paramedic vehicles on each flight. The drone flew over cellular to remote take-off points selected by GPS and landed successfully to deliver an AED to the onsite researchers from the University of Toronto and Ottawa Hospital. They then utilised the device to deliver required shocks to a medical mannequin. Translated to an actual cardiac arrest, the 7 or more minutes would be crucial in saving the victim’s life.
‘I am very impressed with the results of these flights, advancing the science and operations, delivering life-saving tools such as a defibrillator by drone,’ said Dr Sheldon Cheskes of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
‘This new drone technology is especially exciting when integrated into critical scenarios for paramedics – effectively enabling AED ‘on the fly’. We’re thrilled to be part of this partnership, and to be able to demonstrate the capacity for drones and cellular technology at this lifesaving trial,’ noted Philip Reece, CEO, InDro Robotics.
David Everingham, vice president and chief technology officer, Ericsson Canada, said, ‘We are proud to partner on this innovative trial, as multiple companies join together to test how we can use 4G LTE networks and drones to help save lives in Canada.’
Expanding the mission for drones
Beyond the speedy delivery of AEDs to save lives, Renfrew Paramedic Service is trialling the fast delivery of urgent medications that can also quickly save lives, such as epinephrine for anaphylaxis, naloxone for opioid overdose, bleeding kits for haemorrhage control; as well as everyday life-saving medications that may be difficult to acquire in rural and remote locations such as Northern Ontario.
For more information, go to uk.cradlepoint.com