9-1-1 Drone Dispatch in Manatee County, Florida Could Save Heart Attack Victims

by DRONELIFE staff writer Jim Magill

Manatee County, Florida may become the first local government entity in the country to use its emergency 9-1-1 system to dispatch the delivery of emergency medical supplies by drone for people suffering from heart attacks or other serious medical emergencies.

On September 15, the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners gave approval to a preliminary agreement between the county Public Safety Department and Orlando-based Archer First Response Systems, an affiliate of Archer UAS, which would install an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), comprising a drone capable of carrying a medical payload and a ground control hub, on county property.

Under the agreement, the county initially would lease the UAS from Archer for a one-year period for $1 per month. The bulk of the costs of operating the system will be borne by Florida Health Sciences Center’s Tampa General Hospital.

The county’s approval of the contract is the first step in a process to establish the 9-1-1 system dispatch of drones, within a small designated operating area close to the county’s EMS Lakewood Ranch Base in Bradenton. The Federal Aviation Administration still must approve Archer’s application for waiver to operate the autonomous drones in the county.

“Because this technology is so new, you have to have FAA approval for autonomous drone service,” Jake Saur, Manatee County public safety director, said at the county board meeting where the vote was taken. “A lot of stars need to be aligned for this type of pilot program to get into operation.”

Under the contract with the county, the Archer UAS would fly a FreeFly Systems Alta X drone, equipped with a medical payload, capable of safely transporting and depositing medical equipment to pre-determined delivery locations. The UAV would use LTE networks to enable Archer to provide 24/7 monitoring and proactive maintenance and allow deployment by the county’s emergency communications center.

The system will also feature ground-control hub, which would be located on a pre-selected site at the county’s EMS base, inside an area enclosed either by fencing and/or shrubbery.

Inside the medical payload drop box, the drone will carry an automated external defibrillator (AED) and other medical equipment, including Narcan, a drug used to treat opium overdoses, and a tourniquet.

Under the propose 9-1-1 drone dispatch system, county 9-1-1- dispatchers will have the ultimate discretion to determine when to activate the Archer system in a medical emergency. Archer agreed

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