Drones to deliver AEDs, lifesaving medical equipment in Orlando

Startup could be first to program drones for emergency situations

ORLANDO, Fla. – A startup company in Central Florida is poised to become the first to program drones deployed by emergency dispatchers.

Drones have been seen, by some, as invaders of privacy. But Gordon Folkes, the CEO and founder of Archer First Response Systems, said carrying a camera is actually just an elementary purpose of drone technology.

"A lot of people are distracted, they see them as a camera in the sky," Folkes said. "The only reason we're going to fly this vehicle is if it's a life or death situation, and we're going to bring you the one thing that can save your life immediately."

Inside his office, pieces of equipment from old drones are sorted and labeled, like a robotic graveyard.

"What we do is we connect these unmanned vehicles to LTE cell networks so it's the same network that your cellphone talks over," Folkes said.

Using that signal, 911 operators can pinpoint the location of the caller and simultaneously alert first responders, and deploy a drone carrying lifesaving medical equipment.

Flying 60 to 80 feet over the ground, the drones will carry a payload up to six pounds with automated external defibrillators and other medical equipment to specific drop points.

Folkes said the coverage will be determined county by county, and will fly over public parks, schools, municipal golf courses and residential neighborhoods.

Folkes said one drone can cover 11 square miles in three minutes, 21 square miles in four minutes, and 35 square miles in five minutes.

He equates the coverage to 2,000 - 3,000 AEDs scattered across a community.

"The cool thing is with this we can piggyback off of the infrastructure that's already in place with fire stations that are strategically located throughout a community," Folkes said.

"So these technologies don't take the place of EMS; rather, what they do is get help to someone as quickly as possible," said Dr. Aurelio Duran, a cardiac electrophysiologist with Orlando Health.

Seconds and minutes matter, Duran said, when first responders work to restart a heart.

"Using an AED is purposely extremely simple," Duran said. "Literally, if someone who's never even seen one before, presses the 'ON' button, it will tell you what to do."

It's that simplicity that has inspired Archer First Response Systems to expand their mission and add another tool to emergency response. Folkes said they hope to one day add tourniquets and Narcan to their supply drops.

"It's good versus evil, you know, that's kind of what it comes down to, and we're focusing on positive integrations and doing good with them," Folkes said.

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