Drone delivery of an automated external defibrillator - a mixed method simulation study of bystander experience

Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2019 Apr 8;27(1):40. doi: 10.1186/s13049-019-0622-6.


Background: Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) affects some 275,000 individuals in Europe each year. Time from collapse to defibrillation is essential for survival. As emergency medical services (EMS) response times in Sweden have increased, novel methods are needed to facilitate early treatment. Unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e. drones) have potential to deliver automated external defibrillators (AED). The aim of this simulation study was to explore bystanders' experience of a simulated OHCA-situation where a drone delivers an AED and how the situation is affected by having one or two bystanders onsite.

Methods: This explorative simulation study used a mixed methodology describing bystanders' experiences of retrieving an AED delivered by a drone in simulated OHCA situations. Totally eight participants were divided in two groups of bystanders a) alone or b) in pairs and performed CPR on a manikin for 5 minutes after which an AED was delivered by a drone at 50 m from the location. Qualitative data from observations, interviews of participants and video recordings were analysed using content analysis alongside descriptive data on time delays during bystander interaction.

Results: Three categories of bystander experiences emerged: 1) technique and preparedness, 2) support through conversation with the dispatcher, and 3) aid and decision-making. The main finding was that retrieval of an AED as delivered by a drone was experienced as safe and feasible for bystanders. None of the participants hesitated to retrieve the AED; instead they experienced it positive, helpful and felt relief upon AED-drone arrival and were able to retrieve and attach the AED to a manikin. Interacting with the AED-drone was perceived as less difficult than performing CPR or handling their own mobile phone during T-CPR. Single bystander simulation introduced a significant hands-off interval when retrieving the AED, a period lasting 94 s (range 75 s-110 s) with one participant compared to 0 s with two participants.

Conclusion: The study shows that it made good sense for bystanders to interact with a drone in this simulated suspected OHCA. Bystanders experienced delivery of AED as safe and feasible. This has potential implications, and further studies on bystanders' experiences in real cases of OHCA in which a drone delivers an AED are therefore necessary.

Keywords: AED; Bystander experience; CPR; Defibrillator; Drone; OHCA; UAV.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / methods*
  • Data Collection
  • Decision Making*
  • Defibrillators / supply & distribution*
  • Electric Countershock / instrumentation*
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Manikins
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest / epidemiology
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest / therapy*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Video Recording