20 SERVO 12.2014
Many people who go into cardiac arrest could be helped
with an automated external defibrillator (AED), as well as
CPR from someone who knows what they’re doing. Most of
the time, unfortunately, an AED isn’t handy. So, why not turn a
drone into a flying AED, and then send it to rapidly respond to
emergency calls reporting a heart attack event. It’s a great
idea, and its originator, TU Delft engineering graduate Alec
Momont, has even built a functional flying prototype. But is it
There’s a vague belief with robots that just because
something is awesome and technically possible that doesn’t
mean it should be done.
In practice, there are all kinds of problems that are as yet
unsolved involving drones that want to operate in urban
environments. Namely, a drone needs more than just GPS to
navigate and detect obstacles, and in most places, operation out of line-of-sight is both illegal and just a bad idea. Plus,
landing next to panicky humans with six spinning blades of death could be a problem.
Momont’s defibrillator drone has not solved these problems yet. At the moment, it’s a speedy hexacopter that,
according to The Daily Mail, can “get a defibrillator to a patient within a 12 square kilometer zone within a minute,”
improving the chance of survival from eight percent to 80 percent.
The drones would live at central dispatching points and use GPS to navigate to the location from which an
emergency cell phone call was made. The commercial version would cost about $19,000, and could hypothetically
include all kinds of other handy things like insulin or oxygen. It also includes a camera and speakers, so that people at
the scene can be instructed on how to properly use said things. Guess time will tell here ...
Recently, SRI spun out its electroadhesion tech to a company
called Grabit, who was demonstrating an electrostatic gripper at
RoboBusiness earlier this year.
Electroadhesion can introduce a “stickyness” in just about
anything you can turn on and off whenever you want. It’s sort of like
duct tape that comes with a toggle
switch. The flexible bits are
electrodes that generate alternating
positive and negative charges, thereby
inducing opposite (i.e., attractive)
charges in whatever they’re close to
(anything at all, conductive or not),
thus causing them to stick. Like
geckotape, electrostatics depend on a
lot of surface contact to adhere well,
which can be a problem if you’re
trying to attach to surfaces that
aren’t flat. Fortunately, Grabit’s
“fingered” gripper is compliant
enough to get around that issue.
Image: TU Delft