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Florida County to Soon Deploy Drones for 911 Calls

On Wednesday, Manatee County was set to launch a new pilot program that uses a drone to deliver a defibrillator, a tourniquet, or naloxone — an opioid-overdose antidote — to emergency scenes.

A drone in the air with blurred mountains and buildings in the background.
(TNS) — A Florida county will be one of the first in the nation to dispatch a drone that responds to 911 calls.

On Wednesday, Manatee County was set to launch a new pilot program that uses a drone to deliver a defibrillator,a tourniquet, or naloxone — an opioid-overdose antidote — to emergency scenes. The program is meant to reduce response times for life-threatening situations.

The government program, which has been cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration, is a partnership with Tampa General Hospital and Archer First Response Systems.

“This is an amazing opportunity to be on the cutting edge of technology in emergency response,” Commissioner Mike Rahn said. “We are excited that this first-of-its-kind program is taking flight first here in Manatee County.”

The county, which will pay $1 a month for the program, will house the drone at the EMS Lakewood Ranch Station, 10311 Malachite Drive. The county expects the drone to deliver medical supplies in about one minute and 45 seconds to two minutes and 10 seconds.

A 911 dispatcher will send the drone to a caller and walk them through how to use the defibrillator, the tourniquet or the overdose treatment.

New 911 drone program in Manatee County

“Unmanned aircraft provide a unique utility in their ability to fly quickly and directly to the scene of an emergency and pose exceptional promise to decrease response times, save lives and improve outcomes,” ArcherFRS founder and CEO Gordon Folkes said.

The caller can expect the medical supplies to come with instructions. The defibrillator, which will work on both children and adults, features a video screen that shows how to remove the pads and apply them to a victim. It also has a Spanish mode for callers who do not speak English.

An ambulance with EMS first responders will still respond to the scene, but the drone should allow treatment to begin sooner, officials say.

“We’re grateful to our partners in Manatee County, and we’re excited to see this vision come to life,” TGH president and CEO John Couris said. “With the ability to measure the impact of this program on the community, we can determine how the technology can be used in more scalable, reproducible ways for the broader benefit of our state.”

Over the next year, the county, TGH and ArcherFRS will evaluate the program’s effectiveness to determine how it can be used to serve more residents across the state.

The county will use the drone from sunup to sundown Monday through Friday in a 3.5-square-mile area. The county, which may receive FAA approval to expand the program as early as August, later plans to use the drone 24/7 in a 35-square-mile area.

Residents who want to learn more about the program can visit

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