History in the making: First drone delivery of an AED

Published 12:10 am Thursday, May 16, 2024

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CLEMMONS — History was made in Forsyth County last week with the first drone delivery of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) in a simulated cardiac arrest scenario that took place at Agape Church in Clemmons

In a cardiac arrest, every minute counts and drones can deliver a life-saving AED to the scene in minutes, where a 911 operator can instruct a caller on how to use it until first responders arrive.

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, along with Duke Clinical Research Institute, Hovecon and Forsyth County Emergency Services, hosted a simulation for a study involving the AED delivery. The project is the first of its kind in the country, and could enhance the standard-of-care process for citizens experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. 

The drone simulation took place on May 8. The drone was deployed from a nearby staging area to a mock simulation of a cardiac arrest patient. The drone delivered the AED, followed by response by fire and EMS. 

The FCSO successfully implemented its Drones as First Responder (DFR) program in October 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 was the first of its kind in North Carolina, and one of only 11 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. This new initiative 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 significant success after their first life-saving AED drone deployment in 2023.  

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 two to five minutes as opposed to the average 10 to 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.