Skip to main content

Each year, 25,000 North Carolinians suffer from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, but only about 5% survive. We are studying how medical drones might help decrease the time it takes to get life-saving assistance to victims and improve survival rates.

Our study was designed to demonstrate the feasibility of drone delivery of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) on the UNC Chapel Hill Campus. It was a joint project between UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University’s Institute for Transportation and Education




Why OHCA? Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is a significant health problem in the United States (US), and only 6% survive despite advancements in emergency cardiac care. The chance of OHCA survival decreases by 10% for every minute without defibrillation, but emergency response takes a median of 8 minutes in the US. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) have the potential to fill this gap via use by witnesses, but AEDs are used <2% of the time since AEDs are difficult to locate and rarely available in the home, where 80% of OHCAs occur. Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, have the potential to deliver AEDs to a witness prior to ambulance arrival. To date, no studies in the US have been conducted assessing the feasibility of AED delivery via drones.

Why drones? Using drones could increase bystander use of AEDs. Our strategy: Bystander activates 911, and a dispatcher deploys an AED-equipped drone in conjunction with EMS. If the drone arrives before EMS, defibrillation can occur more rapidly. Additionally, Drones would allow AEDs to be delivered in hard to reach, rural settings. 

What is the purpose of the study? The knowledge gained from this research will be used to design and test a larger investigation within a North Carolina (NC) community Results of this feasibility study will inform future investigations for designing and testing medical drones at a community level. 



This study has been reviewed and approved by the UNC Biomedical Institutional Review Board, IRB Study # 18-0039, approved on 3/19/2018. The study is funded by the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.