P.E.I. paramedics put drones to the test for mock disaster

Paramedics are conducting experiments this week at Slemon Park to test the use of aerial drones at accident scenes.

Paramedics are conducting experiments to test the use of aerial drones at accident scenes

The drone is equipped with video camera and megaphone. It can broadcast instructions to survivors. (Trevor Jain)

Paramedics are conducting experiments this week at Slemon Park in Summerside, P.E.I., to test the use of unmanned aerial vehicles — or drones — at accident scenes.

On Tuesday 70 people took part in a mock disaster involving a pretend ten-car pile up with multiple casualties.

"What we're doing is unique," said Dr. Trevor Jain, paramedicine program director at Holland College.  "We're looking at real time UAV technology at a mass casualty incident."

Drones to the rescue. Researchers at Holland College and UPEI are developing humanitarian uses for unmanned aerial vehicles. (Skymetro UAV Technology Inc.)

Many of the participants are students in the paramedicine programs at Holland College and UPEI.

For Tuesday's test, conducted on the tarmac of a former runway at Slemon Park, some students acted as first responders. Others were assigned the roles of accident victims.

Drones protect first responders

Paramedics from Island EMS observed and assessed how students handled the crisis, both with and without a drone to help them.

The drone carried a video camera as well as a megaphone. The air-borne loudspeaker allowed first responders to broadcast instructions to survivors below.

Dr. Trevor Jain is lead investigator. He is an emergency room physician at QEH and has served 29 years in the Canadian military. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Jain said drones have proved useful in disaster situations around the world.

"Europe is going through a period where there are a large number of mass casualty incidents," he said. "They're finding this technology is helping the incident commander manage the scene more effectively."

"In Haiti, drones were used very effectively by the military for rescue."

Canada's military is taking note

The Canadian Armed Forces are funding the research at Slemon Park. Jain says the experiment allows students to participate in scientific research while learning to be paramedics.

"The last project we did here with Holland College and UPEI was picked up by NATO and was actually presented at one of their conferences in Paris a year ago," said Jain.  

"We suspect this data will also be picked up. It puts Holland College and UPEI on the map for original research."

Researchers will also test infrared sensors on drones, for use at night.