HomeTelemedical drone could have global implications

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“What we have here is truly a telemedical kit,” said Italo Subbarao, a doctor with William Carey University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It has diagnostic and treatment capability. That’s what makes it unique and gives it more utility.”Subbarao and third-year Carey medical student Guy Paul Cooper Jr. have invented the first fully-equipped telemedical drone. The two have been working on the project since 2014. The name of the drone? HIRO, pronounced “hero,” for Healthcare Integrated Rescue Operations.

HIRO is capable of carrying an advanced 20-pound telemedical kit and delivering it to someone in medical need in areas where emergency personnel may not be able to reach quickly, Subbarao said. The drone is remotely controlled and has a GPS transmitter.”It allows us to get the location in a very precise way,” he said. “We could ask them to enable their phone to have GPS, or they could give us any physical features (of the terrain).”Cooper envisions many scenarios where the drone could be a lifesaver.

“When someone is on the side of a mountain and has an allergic reaction, we could send in the drone with an EpiPen and stabilize him until rescuers can get there,” he said.Cooper said the drone could also fly three miles off the coast to someone on a boat who is in medical trouble.The idea for the drone began when Subbarao and Cooper were studying the aftermath of the EF4 tornado that hit Hattiesburg in February 2013.635811246878312193-Telemedical-Drone-6

“We realized there were a lot of folks in the community and a lot of folks in need, and the community responded, but the question is, can we do more?” Subbarao said. “If their roof is collapsed or their grandmother is hurt, why couldn’t we send an unmanned telemedical drone over the area?”He said during a widespread event such as a tornado, the need is definitely there.

“In seeing there were so many people affected by the event and so many people in need, and you only have a few ambulances — if we saw somebody in need, we could come and drop that kit and provide care,” Subbarao said. “It would arrive before the ambulance, and it would bridge the time before the ambulance arrived.”Kyle Hopkins, operations officer for Forrest County Emergency Management Agency, thinks the telemedical drone could be helpful.

“I’ve seen drones before, but none that were as specific as that for healthcare purposes,” he said. “It’s a good concept that could potentially be lifesaving.”Subbarao hopes to eventually deploy a fleet of HIROs throughout the state and the nation, particularly to underserved areas. The drone could also go into dangerous situations where a human might not want to go.”If there’s an epidemic disease somewhere or a hazardous place, we could equip this drone with sensors to tell us what the chemical is, and it could even bring antidotes to the chemical,” Subbarao said.