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The survival rate for cardiac arrest that occurs outside of a hospital isn’t pretty–as it stands, just 10 per cent of people live. That’s a sobering stat, regardless of whether you live in an urban or rural part of the country.

But thanks to technological advancements, this could all change.

Timothy Chan, a computer science engineer at the University of Toronto, is investigating drone technology with his team of researchers. Chan is testing how strategically placed drones equipped with defibrillators (and instructions to help people use it) could cut ambulance wait times for cardiac arrests in half.

Pretty impressive stuff, and just a brilliant use of an existing technology.

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, approximately 40,000 people per year will suffer cardiac arrest (which shouldn’t be confused with a heart attack). When the body goes into cardiac arrest, and the heart stops beating, the chances of survival drop by seven to ten per cent each minute that a defibrillator isn’t used to jumpstart the heart. And with ambulance wait times ranging from five to twenty minutes depending on where you live, it’s easy to see why survival rates are currently so low.

While Chan’s defibrillator drones zipping around the sky sound like something out of a sci-fi flick, they may actually be something we experience in our lifetime. Earlier this month, Transport Canada Minister Marc Garneau granted approval for drones in Alberta’s Village of Foremost (about three hours from Calgary) to be flown beyond the operator’s line of sight. It’ll be a testing playground for businesses looking to use drones.

So, sure, all of this is still in the early stages of testing and working out logistics, but it’s an achievable, helpful possibility for people in a life or death situation.

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