Texas program trains EMS drone pilots

Texas-based emergency training EMS drone pilot training program.

by Jim Magill

Thanks to a training program announced by Draganfly last month, emergency medical personnel in Texas will soon be able to use drones to deliver life-saving drugs and equipment to victims of an emergency or disaster.

The training program started in August in Spring Branch, Texas, a city northeast of San Antonio. The training includes the first phase of a multi-phase program launched by Draganfly and global supply chain company Coldchain Delivery Services to integrate the collection and delivery of drone information with the state’s emergency management systems.

“Whether it is total disaster relief or an emergency response, the drone will often have the ability to be the first responder,” said Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly, in an interview.

He said many emergencies occur in remote communities or affect roads that are being made impassable, preventing the delivery of critical medical supplies or equipment to the people who need it most. “Imagine a hurricane, a tornado, a flood, or the frost like we had last winter,” said Chell.

The program, which will include firefighters and search and rescue teams in addition to emergency medical personnel, will guide first responders using drones to transport critical equipment and medical supplies and to convey critical data to emergency and disaster relief centers.

Information-gathering drones deployed to disaster sites will be able to provide an initial assessment of the situation on the ground and return key data to the first responders who drive to the scene in fire trucks and ambulances, Chell said.

At the disaster site, specially equipped UAVs can monitor the air quality – to detect toxic gases and other pollutants – as well as optical monitoring of the location to assess damage and locate survivors. They can also be equipped to measure the vital signs of survivors and feed this data back to the response teams. “Our drones can read heart rates, respiratory rates and blood pressure so they can conduct a health assessment of survivors on site,” said Chell.

With this intelligence, transport drones can be loaded with everything that is most urgently needed on site – bandages, water and even pain relievers.

EMS drone pilot training: first training class started

Chell said about a dozen people are enrolled in the first phase of the training program, including EMS staff, as well as DraganFly and Coldchain staff. All are FAA Part 107 certified drone pilots.

The initial briefing consists of flight training in which the trainees get to know the payload capacities and flight characteristics of the various drones that are used in emergency flight situations.

“The second part is understanding and assessing what mission is being flown, be it environmental monitoring, situational awareness or actual delivery,” said Chell.

With drones that are used for medical care, the trainees learn which drone they use depending on the payload of the vehicles and how quickly the drone can be sent to the scene. In addition, the trainees learn to equip the payload compartment of the drone with emergency supplies and equipment and to dispatch it to the scene.

In addition to the preparation and disposition of the drones, the trainees, many of whom are the first responders themselves in an emergency, also learn how to handle drone deliveries; how to receive and unpack the sensitive cargo from the drone and how to send the vehicle back to its home base for further use.

Chell said the organizers of the program envision that once the program is launched, Texas rescue workers will use the drones to deliver everything from water, vaccines and other medicines to portable medical devices like defibrillators to emergency locations. By using cooling units as payloads, the drones can even transport blood and other medical supplies that need to be stored and transported in cold temperatures.

The training program includes phase one of a five-phase rollout of the partnership between Draganfly and Coldchain. In May, Coldchain announced it had entered into a $ 750,000 partnership agreement with the drone manufacturer “to develop, deploy and operate solutions for the delivery of medical supplies, drugs and vaccines.”

Phase One, which is expected to last 10 months, will include working with the FAA and other regulatory agencies to obtain the necessary licenses and approvals for the first non-commercial beta test delivery routes. Coldchain will spend $ 125,000 to implement phase one. In the second phase, Coldchain is expected to purchase $ 625,000 worth of equipment and services from Draganfly.

“We’re going to work through the stages with the FAA folks,” Chell said. The program’s organizers will provide data to regulators for review and evaluation in hopes of devising a regulatory pathway to make the drone first responder program “a much broader and more permanent service,” he said.

Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with nearly a quarter of a century of experience relating to technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring as Senior Editor at S&P Global Platts in December 2019, Jim began writing about new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones and how they are contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has been published in the Houston Chronicle, US News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International publication.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional marketplace for drone services, and a passionate observer of the emerging drone industry and regulatory environment for drones. Author of over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for emerging technologies.
For advice or writing in the drone industry, email Miriam.

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