Canadian Paramedics Use Drones For Emergency Response

In Renfrew County, Ontario, some paramedics are doubling as drone pilots. They fly drones to help with emergency response calls from heart attack victims to auto accidents; particularly in remote locations.  Brian Leahey, a pilot and the deputy chief of the paramedic service explained that drones have expanded their reach into areas they could not previously access.

Imagine an emergency response team who responds to a call and yet can’t proceed because of the location’s inaccessibility. With drones, paramedics can now send life-saving supplies into hard to reach areas.  A rural paramedic team just west of Ottawa is using drones as part of its response strategy. In 2017, they used a drone to access a snowmobile accident scene before the paramedics could safely arrive.

The county now owns five drones with various capabilities from night vision to the ability to drop a defibrillator. They do not yet have full functionalities like a traditional ambulance, but in some circumstances, such as remote or hard-to-reach locations, they can deliver life-saving supplies very quickly.  These deliveries can make a difference between life and death because in many situations, the chances of survival comes down to time. The faster these drones could arrive on the scene with life saving technology, the better the chances of survival.

The Renfrew County paramedic team is the first in Canada to use drones in this manner, and they are working with Transport Canada as to not break the law. They work together to ensure everything works according to the current drone regulations within the country. So as these regulations evolve, Canadians expect to see more progress in the emergency rescue sector.

But others are watching attentively, eager for the laws to change that increases the use of drones. And despite fines of up to $25,000 or the possibility of jail time, abiding by drone regulations can be challenging.  Technology usually moves faster than laws, and the hard part is keeping up.

Since technology is growing so rapidly, Transport Canada stated that there are still too many security concerns and variables to take into consideration. There is the question of visibility on the radar for NAV Canada (which is similar to the FAA in America) including the rule that drones must remain in the line of sight at all times to name a few. After these questions have been answered, and new laws and regulations adopted, we can expect to see more drone technology coming to market, and more lives being saved.

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