An Aberdeen medical student has built a drone which could keep mountain rescue teams supplied in an emergency.
Sophie Barrack, who studies at Aberdeen University, researched, designed and built the device with the intention of finding out whether it could be used to deliver vital medical supplies.
The outdoors enthusiast surveyed volunteers from Scottish Mountain Rescue and staff from Mountaineering Scotland, as well as NHS workers, to find out which items would be most useful in a rural emergency.
Around 86% of those who responded thought drones could be useful in healthcare, with medicine and medical supplies the most popular suggestions for what the drone could carry.
Drones are already used to help locate missing persons through the Search and Rescue Aerial Association Scotland, which formally joined Scottish Mountain Rescue two years ago.
However, they have not yet been used to get supplies and equipment to teams – and Sophie’s next step is to test whether her prototype device would be capable of carrying dressings, defibrillators, painkillers and other supplies to remote locations.
Sophie said: “My main interest was in finding out whether healthcare and mountain rescue workers thought a drone could be used to deliver essential medication and equipment in remote areas, which – according to my survey – they do. I then wanted to get a rough idea of a ‘top 5 things’ that such a drone should have in their opinions.
“The building of the drone was a bit of an afterthought but if nothing else it adds a physical element to the project which can hopefully kickstart discussions, as well as giving us an idea as to how big and powerful a drone would be required.
“Drones have been used to locate missing people in remote areas, so it would be great to explore if they could be used for delivering small amounts of medication or equipment to climbers or walkers in trouble quickly while a mountain rescue team attempts to reach them.
“Mountain Rescue and other related services are still absolutely crucial, but if there was a way to get some initial aid to the patient quickly, could that potentially lead to better outcomes? These are the kinds of questions I am interested in.”
Drones are already used in some countries, such as Rwanda and Ghana, to deliver blood for transfusions by US company Zipline.
Sophie’s lecturer, Dr Heather Morgan, added: “It was really exciting to work with Sophie because we both shared an ambition to take this project beyond the background desk research into existing drones for health around the globe.
“Being an applied health scientist, and tech enthusiast, I was keen to support Sophie’s desire to explore Scottish opinions through the survey and to act on the results.
“Creating the prototype was a lot of fun and we’ve already discussed how this project might influence further studies and developments with NHS stakeholders.”