*Daniel Slezak1, Anna Tyranska-Fobke1, Marlena Robakowska2, Joanna Nowak3, Przemyslaw Zuratynski1, Jerzy Robert Ladny4, Jakub Kraszewski5, Marzena Domanska-Sadynica6, Klaudiusz Nadolny4
The use of drones in various rescue sectors – an analysis of examples in Poland and in the world
Wykorzystanie dronów w różnych sektorach ratownictwa – analiza przykładów w Polsce i na świecie
1Department of Emergency Medicine, Emergency Medicine Workshop, Faculty of Health, Medical University of Gdansk, Poland
2Department of Public Health and Social Medicine, Faculty of Health, Medical University of Gdansk, Poland
3Faculty of Health, Medical University of Gdansk, Poland
4Department of Emergency Medicine, Medical University of Bialystok, Poland
5University Clinical Centre, Gdansk, Poland
6The Experts for Health Foundation, Warsaw, Poland
Rynek dronów w Polsce w ostatnich latach dzięki szybkiemu rozwojowi zyskał na popularności. Bezzałogowe statki latające są obecnie wykorzystywane w różnych dziedzinach, także w sektorze medycznym. Bezpieczeństwo imprez masowych w dużej mierze zależy od szybkiej reakcji ratowników medycznych i innych służb porządku publicznego na wszelkie zagrożenia. Obserwacja i nadzór nad uczestnikami imprezy są szczególnie utrudnione, kiedy obszar wydarzenia obejmuje duży teren i organizacja zabezpieczenia medycznego jest skomplikowana. Monitoring bezpieczeństwa uczestników za pomocą dronów umożliwia sprawniejszą współpracę służb medycznych oraz szybszą reakcję personelu podczas wypadków. Wdrożenie dronów do systemu zabezpieczenia medycznego wymaga odpowiedniego zaplanowania współpracy służb, podziału obszaru na sektory, ustalenia prawdopodobnych zagrożeń oraz innych czynników. Praca ma na celu zilustrowanie realnych możliwości dronów poprzez analizę przypadków wykorzystania danych maszyn w sektorze medycznym na świecie, a przez to przedstawione korzyści oraz możliwości użycia dronów jako elementu zabezpieczenia medycznego wydarzeń masowych ilustrują ich potencjał oraz wsparcie dla czynnika ludzkiego.
Owing to a rapid development, the Polish drone market has become more popular in the last years. UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are used in various areas nowadays, including the medical sector. To a large extent, mass event security depends on prompt actions taken by paramedics and other public order services to react to any kind of threats. The process of monitoring and overseeing of mass events is especially difficult when the events involve vast areas of land and the organization of medical security is complex. Monitoring with the use of drones to secure participants of the events enables a more efficient cooperation of medical services and a faster reaction of the personnel in case of accidents. The implementation of drones in the system of medical security requires proper planning of cooperation between various types of services, dividing the area into sectors and identifying potential risks and other factors. The aim of the research is to illustrate the real potential of drones by means of analyzing cases of application of drones in the medical sector in the world. The presented benefits and possibilities related to the use of drones as elements of mass event medical security indicate that drones have a potential and support the human factor.
Owing to a rapid development, the Polish drone market has become more popular in the last years. UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are used in various areas nowadays, including the medical sector. To a large extent, mass event security depends on prompt actions taken by paramedics and other public order services to react to any kind of threats. The process of monitoring and overseeing of mass events is especially difficult when the events involve vast areas of land and the organization of medical security is complex. Monitoring with the use of drones to secure participants of the events enables a more efficient cooperation of medical services and a faster reaction of the personnel in case of accidents. The implementation of drones in the system of medical security requires proper planning of cooperation between various types of services, dividing the area into sectors and identifying potential risks and other factors.
The aim of this publication is to illustrate the realistic potential of drones by means of studying cases where drones were applied in the global medical sector. The presented benefits and the possible application of drones as elements of the mass event medical security system illustrate the potential of these devices and their supportive function to the human element.
UAVs have already been applied in the medical sector in numerous countries. Studies on the new possibilities of application of UAVs are still in progress. More and more paramedics around the world have the chance to familiarize themselves with the advantages and the potential of drones in their work. One of the pioneers in UAV monitoring is the UNOSAT program (1). UNOSAT, which is related to UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research), is a program focused on modern technologies with the aim of performing an imagery- and satellite analysis for the United Nations. The goal is the support in transformations within key sectors, such as humanitarian aid, human security, strategic spatial planning, and strategic planning of development (1). The first drone mission started by the organization was launched in Haiti to estimate damage and to design the reconstruction of buildings (1).
The early research was followed by a test verifying the benefits of the application of UAVs in situations requiring a real-time monitoring of large gatherings (1). The test was performed in July 2012 during the Paleo Music Festival in Nyon (1). It is the largest open-air music festival in Switzerland with an area that is perfect for an effective real-time drone monitoring of stages (1). The test involved md4-200 drones produced by Microdrones (1). They were hovering no longer than 20 minutes and were transmitting high-resolution images to the operator in real time (1). Drone activities ensured prompt reaction to threats during public gatherings. The type of mass event selected for the test was based on the agreement between the UNOSAT and the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to ensure the best possible evaluation of the potential benefits of applying this type of monitoring (1). Due to their low flight altitude, UAVs are able to monitor the specific area in cloudy weather and adverse weather conditions. This factor makes them a cheap and effective alternative to satellites as a source of a high-resolution material for analysis. Drones are more and more frequently applied as an evaluation tool in the case of natural disasters and as a means of support for the rescue services (1).
Currently, UAVs are also used in search actions. The advantages of drones are appreciated not only by special public services but also by private individuals. For instance, Eric Garcia disappeared in California on 7 December 2013 (2). The rescue action encountered many difficulties due to heavy snow. The services withdrew after a few days of searching because of no available clues. Jim Bowers, a private drone operator supported this case (2). For a week, he was using the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ drone to cover a 40-mile area and places difficult to access. Owing to the UAV, the man’s corpse was found after he had fallen down into a ravine as a result of a car accident (2). After that, Bowers established a group called SWARM (Search With Aerial RC Multi Rotor). The idea is that certified drone operators volunteer to assist the families of the missing people in searching their relatives (2). Two years after the group had been established, it involved 3000 registered operators all over the world (2). There is at least one SWARM member in each state in the USA (2). However, it is not always possible to legally use drones in search actions (2). Rescue services have their particular procedures and their own professional equipment to search (2).
In May 2014, the Canadian police found a man in an overturned car in an empty area by means of using the Draganflyer X4-ES drone with a thermo-vision camera (2). As a result, the victim was offered assistance and he later recovered. In July 2015, rescue services applied UAVs to deliver life jackets to individuals trapped on the rocks in the middle of the Little Androscoggin River, Maine (2).
However, the application of drones in search actions is not an easy task. It usually requires special software to detect all important details (2). DridPlanner is a frequently used software (2). Thermo-vision cameras also facilitate search activities. UAV recordings can also be replayed, which makes it possible for more people to review the image (2). The devices used by SWARM hover 60-100 feet off the ground within the period of 10-25 minutes (2). Many people claim that drone hobbyist should not deal with rescue service actions. Nevertheless, the successful actions illustrate the advantages of drones and the potential of the devices as far as their application in the medical sector is concerned. Dr. Robin Murphy, an engineer and director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASA) in Texas, created a program offering the application of drones in search actions and disasters (2). Such equipment was used after the earthquake in Capri, Italy, in 2009 (2).
In the US, the inclusion of UAVs in the fixed equipment of the rescue services becomes a common practice (3). 2015, the Austin Fire Department in Texas was involved in a four-year program to study the benefits of drones in rescue actions and fires. Most of the organizations similar to SAR (Search and Rescue) already have drones available (2). Other types of services also have such devices in their equipment. To illustrate, the FlyTech company started a cooperation with Grupa Podhalanska GOPR (the Podhale Group Mountain Volunteer Search and Rescue) in 2014 (4). The company in question created a special system called Guardian for the purposes of mountain search and rescue (4). FlyTech devices can be successfully used to coordinate rescue actions, to perform search actions and to detect destinations from bird’s-eye view (5). The company is located in Krakow, Poland, and specializes in the construction of devices equipped with sensors and steering systems to collect as much required data as possible for the purpose of analysis (4). The cooperation is based on common actions and training that lead to the construction of a specialized system which is expected to support rescue actions in the mountains. Guardian is based on GIS (Geographical Information System) software available at the command center of the Mountain Search and Rescue and is processed by the rescuers. The mobile command center is simultaneously the Air Traffic Control Ground Station for drones that participate in search actions (4). The cooperation agreement was signed after the meeting between the head of GOPR (the Mountain Volunteer Search and Rescue) and a FlyTech specialist (4). The main argument in favor of using the devices is that they can search fast and cover large areas of land that would normally take rescuers significantly more time from the ground. Owing to this advantage, Grupa Podhalanska GOPR has the possibility to significantly shorten the time of implementing rescue procedures in life-threatening events (4). It was already before the cooperation started that rescuers had to familiarize themselves with the potential of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to know where the devices would be most useful.
The FlyTech drone available at Grupa Podhalanska GOPR is visually similar to other standard devices of its kind (4). The advantage of the FlyTech drone is that it is easy to operate as rescuers need a training on how to use the device before it is applied in a rescue action. The optical sensors of the device are adapted to be able to monitor the area mostly covered with forests. The only still outstanding issue lies in the procedures of applying UAVs in the services provided by GOPR. Rescuers must be prepared for the possible situation that the functioning of the sensors may be disturbed by changing weather conditions in the mountains, and by dense forests. The preliminary test was based on taking high-resolution images covering the area of 100 ha. The device managed to take the images within 40 minutes. It would take much more time and human resources to search the area if rescuers were expected to search without the support of drones. The company has got two drones that are applied in rescue actions. One of them is located in Rabka, Poland, and serves as a training drone. The other device supports real search actions. Drones are usually used in actions where it is very difficult to localize the missing individual. UAVs are able to cover the area faster than helicopters, and are cheaper in use. The drones applied by Grupa Podhalanska GOPR are equipped with a thermo-vision camera, which enables them to find the particular person in the fog or at night. In order to operate effectively, the areas monitored by the rescuers have been divided into sectors. As a result, the rescuer who operates a drone from the ground is able to communicate with rescuers and other services, localize the missing element, and coordinate the action with the rescue center (4). FlyTech has also been testing drones dedicated to water rescue and land rescue (6). The research already started at the beginning of 2015 in the area of the Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University (6).
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