Paramedic drone giving patients in Renfrew County help from above

Paramedics in Renfrew County have a novel, new way to rescue patients in distress that sends help from above. 

Renfrew County is the first paramedic service in Canada to get approval from Transport Canada to use drones in medical emergencies. The service has received permission to drop off lifesaving medical supplies like naloxone kits, defibrillator machines and even floating devices to patients, even those out of the drone operator's line of sight. 

"We know that there are a lot of factors that might get in the way of paramedics responding to a patient at a time of need, weather, or distance or traffic even and the drone gives us the ability to get above all that," said Renfrew County Paramedic Chief Mike Nolan.

The service currently has four drones, two capable of dropping off and carrying larger items like AEDs. Those larger drones can carry up to 2.5 kilograms, roughly 4 kilometers in distance. The drones fly up to 80 km per hour and can fly for up to 30 minutes without needing to be recharged. 

"This is a game changer," Nolan said. 

The paramedic service has been working in collaborating with Transport Canada for more than two years and continue testing throughout 2018. 

"We are going to continue trials over the course of the next year to test the technology, the operators' capabilities to ensure that we can reach as far as possible with lifesaving tools like defibrillators," Nolan said. 

Renfrew Paramedics have already used the drones in search and rescue type scenarios, using the drone's infrared technology and cameras to locate patients in remote areas.

The drone's creator believes this is just the beginning. 

"If you could launch the UAV from the ambulance as it was on the way to a scene, it can fly over 80 km per hour and give the first responders information as to what the scene is going to look like and even map out a path for them to get in," said Philip Reece, the CEO of InDRO Robotics Inc.

The operators, all paramedics, must go through training and follow Transport Canada and NAV Canada rules before every flight. Some of the rules include giving way to airplanes and other manned vehicles, having good visibility and checking weather conditions with Nav Canada before taking off.