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Drone ambulance could make healthcare more accessible

06 January 2017

argodesign came up with a concept of an autonomous, single-person drone ambulance modelled after a standard quadcopter.

Drone ambulance concept (Credit: argodesign)

The concept was created by a team at argodesign during a brainstorming session on how to make healthcare more accessible. The idea was to come up with a way to get an ambulance through a busy urban environment faster. So, they gave the ambulance propellers and made it autonomous with room for one passenger.

The ambulance drone will be driven by GPS, a pilot or both and can be dispatched to an emergency scene with a single EMT. A single pilot could manage a whole fleet of drone ambulances remotely, relying on autopilot through the skies and taking over manual controls during complicated take-offs and landings. It’s designed to land almost anywhere due to its size – roughly the size of a compact car. 

The process would be simple and quick, the EMT would stabilise the patient, load them up and send them back to the hospital for further treatment. “Obviously, it’s not a thoroughly vetted concept, but I think it’s extremely intriguing where drones might show up,” says Mark Rolston, founder of argodesign. “It would be nice to see them used this way, rather than another military function or more photography.”

Drone ambulance concept (Credit: argodesign)

However, even though the drones’ benefits would be significant, it would be extremely hard to build. For one there is the issue of cost, Rolston believes an ultralight drone could be constructed in the million pound range. That is slightly more expensive than a wheeled ambulance but still cheaper than a medical helicopter. 

But drones do exist and they get more advanced each day. Autonomous drivers have already been taking to the streets, so why not the sky? Why not merge the two together? 

“I wouldn’t be surprised to get emails, to hear lots of the aeronautics companies saying, ‘we are working on something like this’,” Rolston says. “It makes perfect sense. We may have underestimated the wingspan challenge for lift, but in a greater scheme of things, that’s a trivial part of the idea.”

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