Chan was already researching optimal places to put public AEDs when he came across an article from Germany about defibrillator-equipped drones. He was inspired to apply his research to these drones.
Chan found that the “vast majority of cardiac arrests occurs in private locations like residences.” While defibrillators may be found in public buildings, they might not be available after-hours or to people who are in their homes.
“We have to keep in mind that public locations are locations where survival is the highest, but is also the minority of cases,” he said.
Although Chan’s model has focused on southern Ontario, he says data about cardiac arrests in Ottawa—like where they occur most often—could be used to map ideal drone base locations here as well.
“Our optimization model for figuring out drone bases is a very general model, so if you have data from Ottawa, Vancouver, or wherever, we can plug it into our model and give you similar recommendations,” said Chan.
Chan hopes that his research will become a reality within the next five to 10 years. Until then, there is much work to be done, he said.
Looking at the present
Although Chan’s work is still only theoretical, Renfrew County paramedics are looking to test his ideas soon. But they’ll have to deal with several Transport Canada regulations beforehand.
According to the Transport Canada website, drones must be flown within the operator’s line of sight, which is the first rule these defibrillator-equipped drones would break. But Chan hopes this and other rules can be met.
As for Ottawa paramedics, Trottier said that while Renfrew County differs from Ottawa in terms of population and buildings, Ottawa does have rural areas that could benefit from the use of drone-equipped defibrillators.
The Ottawa Paramedic Service is waiting to see how the tests go in Renfrew County before they consider bringing these drones into the city.
“We will not consider the purchase of drones until the outcome of the study,” said Trottier. But Ottawa paramedics are still interested in making AEDs more accessible to the public.
Trottier said the city could use more publicly accessible defibrillators, adding that the Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs wants to ensure AEDs are a required component of building codes.
Sean Hackett, Archer Hackett’s father, feels strongly about easily accessible AEDs as well.