Bhavika Wani, a University of Cincinnati aerospace engineering graduate student, saw the potential benefits for a drone that could carry life-saving medical equipment, such as an AED or epinephrine, to buy a patient crucial time until an ambulance arrives.
Wani’s idea was born out of tragedy. While studying for her undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering in her native India, Wani experienced a personal loss that changed her life. She was traveling with a loved one who was experiencing a medical emergency in an ambulance that lacked critical medical equipment. Snarled traffic prevented them from reaching the hospital in time to save the patient.
“No amount of horns or sirens worked. I felt helpless at that moment. It was very difficult. I lost someone that I loved a lot,” Wani said. “I really wish there was something I could have done in that moment to help that person.”
The experience stayed with Wani as she finished her undergraduate degree in India and came to UC as a master’s student in 2017.
“It was still just in my mind: that there was a day in my life that not having the equipment took a very important person out of my life. And I don’t want anyone to face that. Traffic is not a small thing. I’ve seen how impactful it is,” Wani said.
A primary reason Wani chose to study at UC is because of the robust curriculum and research on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones. While working with Kelly Cohen, professor and interim dean of aerospace engineering at UC, Wani began to work on her idea of applying drone technology to bridge the gap between a 911 call and the arrival of an ambulance. She teamed up with Srikanth Pydala, a UC mechanical engineering master’s student, and started their company, AmbiFly.
The team has consulted with police, firefighters and paramedics to determine what equipment would be most beneficial in an emergency in which an ambulance was delayed. They chose devices that could be easily used by a bystander with nothing more than simple, remote instruction from an EMT. Although the long-range goal is to have a customizable solution, the initial AmbiFly prototype includes a standard set of equipment, including an epinephrine auto-injector, Narcan and AED.