A while ago, we wrote about a graduate student from Austria with a wacky idea: Drones that would carry defibrillators to heart attack victims. The rationale was sound. Ambulances can be slow, letting people die; drones are quick, and they can be controlled by smartphones, so anyone can request them.
The trouble was Stefen Riegebauer's concept was just that—a concept. He had a non-working prototype, some nice renderings, and a relatively fleshed-out sense of how the system would work. But not much else. Frankly, it didn't seem like we'd be seeing heart attack drones any time soon, unless you count the drones that kill people every day.
Well, now it appears that Riegebauer's proposal, or something close to it, is getting nearer to reality. A non-profit from Germany recently proposed its own flying defibrillator, and it's working with a technology company to actually bring it to the air.
Definetz's drone, which was built by a company called Height-Tech, can travel up to six miles at a top speed of 43 miles per hour. It's designed for remote regions, which ambulances have a tough time accessing.
"Defikopter is one small supporting step towards an optimized responder structure," says Definetz's Friedrich Nölle, in an email. "It's for sports areas like golf clubs, difficult terrain such as coasts or mountains, and rural areas with weak infrastructure."
Having been requested, the 10 pound drone, known as the Defikopter, hovers over the victim, dropping the defibrillator to someone who can give the electrical charge. That gives more time for an actual ambulance to arrive.
Definetz demonstrated the Defikopter recently at a golf club in the Teutoburg Forest, in west Germany. Nölle hopes to have "a fully operational setup" in the next six months. The current cost is about $40,000.