Drone tests in Reno focus on emergency medical supplies

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The selection of the Reno-based drone operator Flirtey and its local partners for a national test program aimed at increasing the use of unmanned aircraft will be a “game-changer” for the delivery of emergency medical supplies in the region, backers of the effort say.

The 10 sites the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday include projects ranging from monitoring crops and oil pipelines in North Dakota to applying mosquito-killing treatments in Florida.

In northern Nevada, the focus will be on drugs and medical equipment.

Flirtey drones already have delivered automated external defibrillators used to jumpstart the hearts of cardiac arrest victims as part of a joint emergency program with first-responders in Reno. The company also anticipates future deliveries of EpiPens to treat severe allergic reactions and Narcan for opioid overdoses.

“We set out to build the strongest and most diverse coalition possible in order to support a drone initiative Flirtey has already been spearheading in our community — life saving drone deliveries,” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said.

Flirtey CEO Matthew Sweeney said they expect just one of their drones operating in Reno will save one life every two weeks.

“This model is a game-changer for the health of our communities and will prove the viability of this life saving program, which has the potential to save over 1 million American lives over the decades to come,” he said. “While saving lives, we will create jobs and help make America’s drone industry great.”

The joint application Flirtey, the city of Reno and other partners submitted to the DOT said cardiac arrest is the leading cause of natural death in America, and for every minute that a cardiac arrest patient waits to receive defibrillation, their odds of survival decrease by about 10 percent per minute.

Deploying defibrillators can increase the cardiac arrest survival rate from just 10 percent today, to approximately 47 percent, the company said.

In addition to the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority, partners that submitted the joint application from Reno included the city of Sparks, Washoe County, the Reno police and fire departments, the Reno Sparks Indian Colony, Truckee Meadows Community College, American Red Cross, AirMap, FedEx and T-Mobile.