Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drones May Soon Fly to the Rescue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drones May Soon Fly to the Rescue

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

Drones are getting into the lifesaving business.

Archer First Response Systems demonstrated its 4-foot-wide commercial drone that carried a defibrillator and CPR mask that can be dropped near the site of an emergency health situation involving cardiac arrest.

Commercial drone use has been pushing the limits of technology with retail delivery, scientific exploration, real estate, industrial inspections, news gathering and now into civilian life-saving.

Drone use by businesses has proliferated ever since the Federal Aviation Administration loosened guidelines allowing more licensing for drone operators within the past two years. The demonstration on Thursday was at a new housing development on the First Coast, TrailMark, which is just west of World Golf Village in St. Johns County.

"We can get a defibrillator anywhere within three minutes or less, "said Gordon Folkes III, CEO and founder of Archer, which is based in Orlando. "We're going to save lives with this."

Folkes, 23, was still a student at Florida State University when he founded the company three years ago. He has since graduated and attracted investors. The TrailMark demonstration was his first attempt to land a contract with a development. He's also planning to approach several other residential developments in the state. TrailMark has 60 occupied homes with plans to build up to 1,800 homes over the next decade.

Folkes said the prospect of the emergency drone service involves pre-programming grids using satellite coordinates. A drone could then fly within 200 feet of the emergency and drop the defibrillator from about nine feet off the ground. The drone would be summoned by a mobile application on smart phones or other devices. Meanwhile, all drones in various housing developments would be monitored by workers at Archer. It would be a similar system to Life Alert, which can be summoned by the press of button when, for instance, an elderly person falls and needs medical attention.

The defibrillator device is equipped with audio-visual instructions to tell anyone how to apply the medical devices once they are dropped on the scene to unobstructed coordinates that have been pre-approved.

Evergreen LLC is the property management company overseeing the TrailMark site. Wesley Hunt, the Northeast Florida regional manager for the company, encouraged the demonstration. Hunt is a licensed commercial drone pilot himself and said when he heard of the service that could provide defibrillators, he had to learn more.

"We manage 55 and up communities, and golf communities. The wheels in my head started turning. We have communities where we have 50 to 60 AEDs (automated external defibrillators). This (drone) system would eliminate the cost of maintenance on those," Hunt said. …

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