Drone technology has been adapted to detect human vital signs for the first time, opening up new possibilities in the field of emergency medicine.
Researchers from the University of South Australia have successfully trialled unmanned aerial vehicles to measure heart and respiratory rates using remote-sensing imaging systems, while hovering three metres from their subjects.
“A new advance could make it possible for drones to be used to monitor people's life signs from a distance in emergency situations.“
Software was developed to allow video footage from the drones to be used to detect changes in skin tone and head movements to read vital signs without physical restrictions or even a need for direct contact.
Across a number of experiments involving 15 healthy individuals in both indoor and outdoor settings, the drones produced results that were as accurate as traditional contact methods such as electrocardiograms, pulse oximeters and respiratory belts.
The team believe the technology could be used in a range of applications, including for monitoring the health of people in war zones or remote locations.
Professor Javaan Chahl of the University of South Australia said: "Obviously there are privacy and ethical issues around this technology that need to be resolved before it becomes common practice, but there is enormous potential to use machine vision systems to benefit society, particularly in the biomedical sphere."
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