The Welsh Ambulance Trust is working on technology to bring defibrillators to those in need by drone.

The new approach sees the trust join forces with the University of Warwick and drone experts, SkyBound Rescuer. The idea is to quickly provide a defibrillator to someone undergoing cardiac arrest, potentially saving lives.

Every year, more than 6,000 people in Wales experience a cardiac arrest away from hospitals, when starting CPR rapidly and providing access to a defibrillator can make a profound difference.

Carl Powell, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s clinical lead for acute care, said: "In a cardiac arrest, every second counts.

"We will always send an ambulance as quickly as possible on lights and sirens, but starting chest compressions and delivering an electric shock with a defibrillator in the meantime could mean the difference between life and death."


Mr Powell said in rural areas having a defibrillator delivered by a drone could be highly beneficial.

A similar system is already in place in Sweden where drones have been used to provide defibrillators during emergencies.

Professor Nigel Rees, the trust’s assistant director of research and innovation, added: “Drone-delivered defibrillators might sound like something from a sci-fi movie, but if it’s the quickest way to get a defibrillator to a patient, it’s a fantastic tool in our locker to improve survival rates."

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The Drone-Delivered Defibrillators study, or '3D Project', has already seen a number of test flights funded by Resuscitation Council UK.

More funding has been provided by the National Institute of Health Research and Health and Care Research Wales for the project's next phase. This will involve interviewing people who have aided someone in a cardiac arrest to understand the potential benefits of a drone-delivered defibrillator.

Dr Christopher Smith, clinical lecturer in emergency medicine at the University of Warwick, said: "Drones may be one way of getting a life-saving defibrillator to more patients faster than before.

"This project allows us to optimise the processes required and is an important step in making an effective drone-delivered defibrillator system a reality for the UK in the near future."

SkyBound's chief executive, Gemma Alcock, also expressed her excitement about the project. She said: "This collaboration represents a significant step forward in leveraging technology to potentially save lives, particularly in remote areas where access to defibrillators can be challenging."

The Welsh Ambulance Service was recently granted University Trust status by the Welsh Government in recognition of its consistent work to drive research and innovation.

The commitment to the 3D Project further underlines this, with the study set to conclude in October 2024 and the results expected in early 2025.