Demonstration of historic, first-in-the-nation, AED drone delivery held by FCSO

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 28, 2024

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FORSYTH COUNTY — On Wednesday, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) along with Duke Clinical Research Institute and Hovecon hosted a demonstration event for a study involving the delivery of an AED, or automated external defibrillator by drone. This project is the first of its kind, in the  United States, and could enhance the standard-of-care process for citizens experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. 

The drone demonstration began at 9 a.m. at the Center for Design Innovation, located at 450 Design Ave., in Winston-Salem.

The FCSO successfully implemented its Drones as First Responder (DFR) program in October of 2022. FCSO’s DFR program was designed to provide deputies with the assistance of 21st-century technology while serving and protecting our community. This program is the first of its kind in North Carolina and one of only eleven with applicable FAA waivers, nationwide. 

Based on the FCSO’s extensive utilization of drones, Duke University researchers teamed up with  the FCSO and Hovecon as major partners for the initial real-time testing of AED delivery by drone. The new project has the potential to improve treatment times and the survival rate of  out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest patients, particularly in rural areas throughout Forsyth County, by providing quick access to AEDs during medical emergencies. This concept, already utilized in Sweden, has demonstrated success after the country’s first life-saving AED drone deployment in 2023.  

According to the release from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, research shows that when AEDs are delivered within the first five minutes of a cardiac arrest episode, the survival rate can increase by 50 percent to 70 percent. Drones equipped with AEDs strategically placed throughout Forsyth County will be vital to saving lives. An AED can be delivered by a drone in 2-5 minutes as opposed to the average ten 10-12 minutes it could take Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel to arrive. The $4 million grant received by Dr. Monique Starks, at Duke University, was funded by the American Heart Association.