Droning On and On

Working to find a way in which medical assistance can be provided rapidly in the wake of a natural disaster, Dr. Italo Subbarao, associate dean and disaster medicine specialist at the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Hattiesburg, is working to blend drone technology with telemedicine, according to an article in Government Technology magazine.

An idea born out of observations from his students in the aftermath of a 2013 tornado that struck Hattiesburg, Mississippi, his proposal would allow for the bypassing of the sort of physical obstructions common in the wake of natural disasters by medical professionals, and allow for laymen to assist in onsite medical treatment.

Incorporating various audiovisual communication equipment and medical supplies, three drone prototypes have been built, and inquiries made from multiple states, as well as officials from foreign countries. The current potential uses, however, remain limited due to federal restrictions on the usage of non-military drones, although exemptions are possible, and demonstrations have been held for representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, federal law enforcement, and the United Nations. Efforts have also been made to work with state officials to incorporate the drones within existing emergency response systems. As a result, Subbarao remains hopeful that one of his medical drones will be in operation by the end of the year.

Observes director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Lee Smithson to Government Technology, "This is going to be a phenomenal way to provide immediate medical attention anywhere in the state. It's about time that Mississippi leads the nation in something good for a change."