Rescue drone with defibrillator developed by German students
Minutes might spell the difference between life and death for cardiac arrest victims. It is critical that medical emergency response teams reach them as soon as possible, although this can be challenging in more isolated, rural places.
“HORYZN” is a student-led initiative from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) that has created a remote-controlled, AI-assisted rescue drone equipped with a defibrillator for just such situations.
The fixed-wing drone, which is approximately 2 meters long and has a wingspan of 3 meters, can reach regions that an ambulance would find difficult or impossible to reach. As soon as the aircraft arrives at the location provided by the emergency call, it enters hover mode and lowers the defibrillator to the ground via a winch, where it may be quickly deployed by first-aiders, including non-professionals, on the spot. This fast deployment significantly improves the patient’s chances of survival after a heart attack.
The prototype flight test was successful.
The HORYZN team demonstrated the technical capabilities of their prototype with a test flight near Ottobrunn on Wednesday, thanks to the Bavarian Red Cross and a simulated emergency. TUM President Prof. Thomas F. Hofmann, as well as Bavarian Science Minister Bernd Sibler and other guests, attended the demonstration.
Balázs Nagy, project team leader, is working at the TUM Institute of Flight System Dynamics after completing his M.Sc. in Aerospace.
“There are 70 of us from 30 different countries and 9 faculties, reaching across engineering and informatics, through to medicine and economics. It’s wonderful that the University can provide us with the diversity of talent, as well as every necessary support to make such a complex project possible.”
Acclaim from high places
Following the test flight, TUM President Hofmann expressed his delight in the TUM students’ initiative:
“I’m always delighted to see how our students use their free time to get together across the disciplines and explore technologies that can be used to help people. They make the University a space for experimentation, for trying out and developing new things, gaining useful experience that will be invaluable to them later on in their careers.”
According to Science Minister Sibler, the research exemplifies what innovative young scientists can accomplish.
“I’m hugely impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of the HORYZN team,” he said. This team’s pioneering and committed work has shown once again how innovative technologies can help people and even save lives. I’m particularly happy,” he said, “that this successful initiative was the work of the TUM’s Department of Aerospace and Geodesy. The Department receives bespoke support from our multi-billion-dollar technology and innovation offensive Hightech Agenda Bayern, and the Hightech Agenda Plus acceleration program.”
A problem that requires a solution
Cardiac arrest is a common medical emergency. Every year, over 75,000 people in Germany suffer from sudden cardiac arrest, with only 11% surviving. Rural ambulance response times range from 9 to 15 minutes, while more remote places may be completely inaccessible. With flight speeds of up to 75 mph, the life-saving drone can arrive at the patient in as little as 4 to 5 minutes, regardless of local road infrastructure.
The HORYZN team intends to file for an operating license from the German and EU aviation safety authorities in early 2022. Hundreds of these drones might be stationed in rural areas and managed remotely via control centers in the project’s ultimate phase. In the event of an emergency, the alarm would be raised through the standard rescue coordination centers, making the drone a valuable supplement to existing rescue networks.
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