We've seen flying drones designed to deliver food and even beer on command, but a new autonomous aircraft from a non-profit organization in Germany could provide medical equipment to remote areas in an emergency. The Defikopter is a UAV that can be activated by a smartphone app to automatically take to the skies and drop a defibrillator to medical personnel on the ground, shaving precious seconds from the time it takes to receive treatment for cardiac arrest.
The idea for the drone comes from Definetz, a non-profit group dedicated to preventing deaths due to heart failure. The company has noted that in its home country alone about 100,000 deaths in the past year have been attributed to cardiac arrest, but some of these might have been prevented if a defibrillator had been on hand at the time. With this is mind, the group teamed up with drone maker Height Tech GmbH and Swiss defibrillator manufacturer Schiller to essentially create a flying medical responder.
The way it works is fairly simple. Once it's released, anyone with a smartphone will be able to download a free app and instantly request the Defikopter in an emergency. If it's within range, the UAV will be dispatched and automatically follow GPS coordinates to the mobile phone's location, where it will either land or drop a defibrillator attached to a parachute. The developers envision it being deployed to sparsely populated areas where emergency services might be hindered by rough terrain, such as the side of a mountain, as well as other hard-to-reach locations, like the middle of a traffic jam.
The aircraft itself appears to be a modified version of Height Tech's HT-8-2000, which has been outfitted with a mechanism for releasing its payload in mid-air. According to the developers, the Defikopter is capable of traveling up to 70 km/h (43 mph) and can reach locations within a radius of 10 km (6.2 mi). Each Defikopter weighs 4.7 kg (10.3 lbs) when carrying a defibrillator and comes with a price tag of €20,000 (about US$15,000).
None of the companies involved have revealed a possible time frame for when the Defikopter might be available to the public, and at the moment it seems only a prototype exists, which still requires an active pilot.
For now though, check out the video below to see the Defikopter attending to a staged heart attack in the middle of a golf course.