Paramedics in Renfrew County west of Ottawa, are using drones, often as their first contact with an emergency situation.
Examples include using a drone to find a hiker lost in rugged terrain, flying a life jacket to a boater in the middle of a lake, or remotely exploring a transport truck collision to determine if the truck is carrying hazardous materials. All scenarios that can be dangerous for first responders.
Indro Robotic and Remote Sensing is the company that builds the drones. They are still discovering uses for paramedic drones. “The benefit to us is working with the first responders,” says company CEO Philip Reece. “We get it into their hands and then they come back to us and say this would be great if it could do this. So we take it back to our engineering department and we make it do that.”
They build a large drone capable of carrying medical items like a life-saving epi-pin or even a defibrillator. “With the defibrillator we have the ability to put the tools in in the hands of lay people that might otherwise have to wait for paramedics to arrive,” says Michal Nolan, Director and Chief of the County of Renfrew Paramedic Service.
Using drones is something that police, and even firefighters are experimenting with, but it’s a relatively unique approach for a paramedic service.
The idea started a few years ago when James Power, an ex-military drone operator, joined the service in Renfrew County. “I can give them a live feed of what’s actually going on with their medics or with their first responders. And that gives them a better command and control over whatever scene they might be engaged in,” says Power.
The idea is still in the early stages. Some kinks still need to be ironed out with Transport Canada, which regulates the use of drones.
But those using it say paramedic drones are definitely the way of the future. They say drones can help speed care to someone in need, and keep the responders safer in the process.