Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to prevent drowning

Celia Seguin, Gilles Blaquière, Anderson Loundou, Pierre Michelet, Thibaut Markarian
Resuscitation 2018, 127: 63-67

BACKGROUND: Drowning literature have highlighted the submersion time as the most powerful predictor in assessing the prognosis. Reducing the time taken to provide a flotation device and prevent submersion appears of paramount importance. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can provide the location of the swimmer and a flotation device.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this simulation study was to evaluate the efficiency of a UAV in providing a flotation device in different sea conditions, and to compare the times taken by rescue operations with and without a UAV (standard vs UAV intervention). Several comparisons were made using professional lifeguards acting as simulated victims. A specifically-shaped UAV was used to allow us to drop an inflatable life buoy into the water.

RESULTS: During the summer of 2017, 28 tests were performed. UAV use was associated with a reduction of time it took to provide a flotation device to the simulated victim compared with standard rescue operations (p < 0.001 for all measurements) and the time was reduced even further in moderate (81 ± 39 vs 179 ± 78 s; p < 0.001) and rough sea conditions (99 ± 34 vs 198 ± 130 s; p < 0.001). The times taken for UAV to locate the simulated victim, identify them and drop the life buoy were not altered by the weather conditions.

CONCLUSION: UAV can deliver a flotation device to a swimmer safely and quickly. The addition of a UAV in rescue operations could improve the quality and speed of first aid while keeping lifeguards away from dangerous sea conditions.

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