Saving lives in Poland with drones

It’s rare to hear of pioneering developments in the drone sector from Central European countries, but now the trend seems to be breaking thanks to the Poles. Dronehub and Pentacomp – European aerospace and software giants – will work with local institutions to deliver defibrillators by drone in Poland, for the time being as part of a pilot project.

In Sosnowiec in southern Poland, 80 km from Krakow and around 350 km from the Hungarian border, transport drones will be in the sky this autumn. From September 2021 until October 2022, hundreds of flights will be monitored and analysed to allow experts to verify the optimal parameters and implementation of the process and to gain experience of the drone technology itself in this deployment.

Swedish innovation in Central Europe

The idea of transporting defibrillators by drone originated in Sweden, where in the summer of 2020 the technology was tested for the first time in the world for real-life alerts of suspected cardiac arrest. Over four months, drones were sent out with ambulances in more than a fifth of these emergencies, a total of 12 times, and experience shows that they arrived ahead of ambulances most of the time (eleven times), with an average lead of 1 minute 52 seconds. The research programme, which offered very promising prospects for the development of emergency patient care, was also carried out by Dronehub and Pentacomp, the Polish project partners, not without the cooperation of emergency patient managers, drone pilots and air traffic control.

The Polish project will be more ambitious than the Swedish one, as it will be longer (one year instead of four months) and involve many more flights (hundreds instead of 12), so that a more detailed and reliable impact assessment can be expected at the end of the project.

A regulated process

It will involve the deployment of docking stations in the city – only two in the pilot project – equipped with a right-angle mechanism, i.e. a robotic launcher. These can automatically pick up a defibrillator from the docking station’s compartment and place it in the drone, which will quickly deliver the life-saving cargo to the designated destination. After landing at the second docking station, a similar mechanism is triggered: the station automatically picks up the package from the drone and places it in the appropriate compartment. The agreement for the first programme of its kind in the country was signed on 25 August by the parties – the two companies mentioned, the local municipality and the Polish Łukasiewicz Institute of Aviation – and is now a certainty.

The project is hoped to set a precedent for the practical application of drones in the delivery of urgent, life-saving medical supplies, with a number of benefits. The drone moves in a straight line, does not get stuck in traffic jams, does not get lost and does not need preparation time, making it extremely suitable for use in rescue operations. In the initial stages of sudden cardiac arrest, every minute without treatment reduces the chance of survival by about 10 per cent. For all these reasons, the experts make no secret of their desire to see drones become an integral part of everyday life in certain services and public safety in the near future, provided that everything goes well with the implementation of this innovative project.

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