Get in touch

Contact us!

    Everdrone: Delivering Critical Medical Care By Drone

    While a lot of the talk around commercial drones has focused on things like inspections, last mile deliveries, real estate, agriculture, and even lifeguarding at beaches, award-winning drone company Everdrone is taking a different approach, looking instead at verticals where their advanced drone operations can give real benefits to society.  That means instead of delivering a package to your door, Everdrone delivers life-saving medical care or assists emergency services with real-time data and images.

    In 2016, serial entrepreneur Maciek Drejak was looking for a new venture and a new technical challenge that would allow him to create something that brought real value to society. He took a closer look at the drone landscape and saw that there were some interesting things happening and some big challenges to be solved. Drone technology had evolved, and it was the same components going into the drones that could be found in the telecom industry, such as gyros, IMUs (Intertial Measurment Unit), and accelerometers.

    “The improvement around those types of components that have enabled very reliable and high-tech devices to be airborne,” explains Mats Sällström, CEO Everdrone. “So, in 2017 we realized all these components were readily available, and that allowed Maciek to experiment and build a proof of concept. He combined camera technology with drone technology, making drones behave in intelligent ways based on camera input data – which means they could dodge obstacles and make precision landings and other things like that.”

    From the beginning, we’ve seen ourselves as a technology provider more than anything else, so we started off solving difficult technical challenges, such as sense and avoid capabilities based on camera systems and building a really robust communication link over the mobile network – these kinds of things weren’t around in the drone industry when we started out.

    Mats Sällström CEO Everdrone

    Everdrone quickly realized that no one was doing the type of operations they were planning to use their mobile unit for, which is when they began their journey towards a more operation-centric company, meaning they are not just a technology provider, but are also doing live operations themselves. This not only provides evidence that the technology and system is working, but also it gives them an edge in doing the type of operations they knew this technology was suited for, such as delivering Automated External Defibrillators (AED) to suspected cardiac arrest victims, which allows people onsite to start life saving measures quickly, and thus increasing the chances of survival significantly. While much of the general public may not know how to use a defibrillator, the AEDs delivered by Everdrone are easy to use, with oral instructions when you turn them on. Additionally, the emergency call center is on the line when one is delivered, offering additional instruction.

    “We are looking at applications where there is a constant need in a particular area,” says Mats Sällström. “Defibrillators are one thing, but we’re also looking at first responder drones that can provide live images at incident sites, such as traffic accidents or fires. This allows emergency response personnel to assess a situation and get a better overview of what is happening on site, which in turn helps them better understand what resources to send – or whether any resources are needed at all. Having live images in minutes means they can allocate resources much more efficiently and in near real time, while also keeping safe.”

    What it comes down to is finding the right technology for the right application. In some cases, such as unexpected and/or natural disasters, it might be more useful to use manual drones, because you need to find the right level of autonomy.

    Pilot project

    Everdrone has taken part in a study, together with Karolinska Institute, Sweden’s national emergency operator SOS Alarm, and Region Västra Götaland to explore using drones to quickly dispatch defibrillators in parallel with ambulances. The 2020 study, which was carried out in the western Swedish cities of Gothenburg and Kungälv, shows not only is it possible to integrate emergency medical drone deliveries into the alarm chain, but also that drones can be significantly faster than ambulances.

    As part of the study, 12 flight missions in real emergency situations and 66 realistic test missions were carried out, of which 92% and 90% were successful, respectively.

    This is potentially a life-changing result, because when a person suffers sudden cardiac arrest, every minute is crucial. In fact, as few as one in ten people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, but with early CPR and a shock from automated external defibrillators, the chances of survival increase to between 50 and 70 percent. The bottom line is that to reach those survival rates, help needs to arrive faster – and drones could be the key to this happening.

    The hardware & platform

    Everdrone works with off-the-shelf, enterprise classed, multirotor drones from DJI, adding proprietary hardware and software to make the drone autonomous and increasing operational safety. While the focus right now is on healthcare and emergency response, the company is also looking at things like perimeter security, which would involve ensuring the safety of, for example, an airport or a power plant. This is in keeping with their goal to provide benefits to society. But in addition to building applications geared toward these verticals, Everdrone is also building a platform.

    “The platform we’ve designed means that when we have a more mature regulatory landscape and a more mature market, we are open to the idea of allowing third party companies or external companies deploying their applications on our platform. In doing this, we don’t necessarily need to provide end-to-end solutions – we can be part of the package,” says Mats Sällström.

    Regulations & safety

    Like other new and innovative autonomous technologies, the drone industry faces some big regulatory hurdles in order to ensure public safety. In fact, because they are airborne, they may be facing even more stringent checks and balances than a delivery droid on the city sidewalks.

    When it comes to drones, one has to acknowledge the level of safety that has been built up in the aviation industry over the past 100 years. Everyone agrees, including us, that you cannot introduce drones into airspace by compromising that level of safety.

    Mats Sällström CEO Everdrone

    “So, the big question now is how are we going to introduce these relatively inexpensive unmanned vehicles into airspace with the same level of safety we currently have in the airline industry?”

    That is the million-dollar question and there are any number of ideas about how to solve it, but in Europe the approach is quite pragmatic, with risk mitigation being proportionate.

    “You can’t really apply the same rules for a large airplane carrying hundreds of people to a drone,” explains Sällström. “We fly about 60 meters above the ground, so at a fairly low altitude, but you might have other aviation, such as helicopters, in that space as well. If hundreds or thousands of drones are introduced into airspace, that creates completely new challenges when it comes to traffic management.

    “The key safety and risk mitigation we’re doing from a ground perspective is an onboard parachute, so if we actually do have a failure during flight the parachute is deployed and the drone comes down in a manner that will not seriously injure anyone – you might get a bruise if you’re hit, but no one will get killed. So, that is a very strong risk mitigation.”

    Functional safety – many layers of safety stacked on top of one another and overlapping each other – creates a redundancy in the system. The drones are connected and if there is a motor failure the parachute system kicks in. The drones also have automatic sense and avoid systems if the pilot attempted an unsafe maneuver. If there is a GPS failure, camera systems take over and make sure the drone remains stable in the air. By having all these many layers of safety and risk mitigation in the system, Everdrone is actually meeting the target level of safety we see in the aviation industry. In fact, Everdrone is coordinating their operations with air traffic control, so each time they take off and fly beyond the line of sight, air traffic control ensures there is no one else in that sector.

    IoT & connectivity

    There has been quite a lot of debate in the drone industry about what type of communication links there should be between ground control and the drones. Everdrone is a firm believer in the mobile network, and Mats Sällström says he is absolutely confident that it is the right way to go, rather than setting up separate communication links.

    Connecting our drones is a key factor to success. Today, we are operating over the 4G network and while that comes with some limitations in regard to things like bandwidth, it works well already.

    “The communication link over the mobile network was one of the early challenges we set out to solve,” says Mats Sällström. “We have a very robust communication link and while there are some gaps of a few seconds here and there, we have not experienced any real problems when it comes to speed or bandwidth. We do have some challenges where we lose connection between masts for a few seconds, but connectivity speed and coverage on the flight level where we are operating hasn’t been a problem. When it comes to 5G, we are more than happy to connect to the 5G network whenever the system is ready and available in large area – but today we are operating perfectly well with the 4G network.

    “I see it as quite a big milestone to have this kind of cooperation with a major mobile operator. Having Tele2 IoT as a partner means we can really improve our operations in the sense of getting a much closer cooperation and a closer relationship with Tele2 IoT’s technicians on how to optimize connectivity. Tele2 IoT has been very good about understanding our needs and addressing them.”

    Data

    Data is always the superpower of any IoT solution, and it is one of the values Everdrone is building into the company. They are collecting huge amounts of real-world flight and telemetry data – about one gigabyte per flight minute, which means they are close to 22 terabytes of actual flight data.

    “Collecting this amount of data is extremely useful for analysis if something unexpected happens, but also for new functional development,” explains Sällström. “For example, we made improvements to the parachute system about a year ago, such as exactly when the parachute should and should not deploy.

    All the collected data has allowed us to validate the algorithms towards a huge number of historical flights and make sure we didn’t have any false positives in the system.

    While data is useful for both analysis and for testing and validating new functionality before it’s rolled out, it’s also being used for virtual or simulated flights in the system.

    “We are running new versions of our software towards known historical flight data,” says Sällström. “These types of simulations allow us to find potential issues throughout the development of the system. Any error that might be introduced during development will likely be caught due to the simulations. We’re getting close to 2.3 million simulated flights as part of this simulation process.”

    The future

    Everdrone started off with a very tech-oriented focus, trying to solve various challenges, before moving into the operational and regulatory phase. Now, they are in the commercial phase, finding the business cases.

    “We believe there is a very bright future for the defibrillator case we’re working with right now. It will take a couple of years to make it fully commercial, because we need to collect more medical evidence and many of our clients are public sector, which comes with its own challenges,” says Mats Sällström. “But we are absolutely confident that emergency medical delivery via drone will be a natural part of emergency dispatch in the future in most countries.”

    In addition to working with emergency medical dispatch delivery, Everdrone will be pursuing a number of other verticals and applications, such as the aforementioned parameter security, as well as further developing the platform methodology.

    “I think there are a lot of companies out there looking at what Everdrone is doing,” says Sällström. “We have obtained a number of high-profile permits, which certainly gets attention. We possibly have the most extensive flight permit for any commercial drone company in the world in the sense that we are reaching more people than anyone else with doorstep delivery by drone. There are companies out there doing more operations, but there is no one else reaching more people.

    “We are focusing on our operations and how we can make them as efficient, safe, and cost efficient as possible as we move forward.”

    If you would like to learn more about how IoT can enable your business, please get in touch.