HERO FROM THE SKY
HiRO the Drone Will Change Emergency Medical Treatment
“I remember thinking, ‘I can see my grandma’s house. But an ambulance can’t get out there!’”
Shortly after five o’clock on a Sunday evening in February 2013, a severe EF4 tornado ripped through Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Winds whirling up to 170 mph tore through town, warping what seemed solid and upending the community. A church’s steeple was ripped off, along with roof after roof on main street. A vehicle parked near the baseball stadium was taken up by the twister and spit out near the pitching mound in the middle of the field, according to the storm report.
“I remember thinking, ‘I can see my grandma’s house,’” he recalled. “’But an ambulance can’t get out there!’”
That his grandmother was remote and isolated from emergency help ignited worry within Subbarao, an osteopathic physician specializing in emergency care.
So he began tinkering with a solution: an aerial ambulance that could fly above the chaos on the ground, with live-saving medical supplies in tow.
With the help of a team led by Dennis Lott, director of the unmanned aerial vehicle program at Hinds Community College in Mississippi, and Guy Paul Cooper Jr., D.O., then a fourth-year medical student at the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine (where Subbarao is a senior associate dean), a new drone was born. They gave the modified DJI S1000+ drone a name worthy of a comic book cover: HiRO (Health Integrated Rescue Operations).
HiRO was “unveiled” in October. In the field, the drone acts as a 911 link to a remote, on-call doctor, who uses an augmented reality interface to give bystanders instructions to provide simple, Good Samaritan medical care until emergency personnel arrive.
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