Published on 2021-10-27

Our ambulance drone concept

Last month we revealed our ambulance drone concept; a look into the (near) future of how this new emergency vehicle can better serve patients and responders, reduce response times and provide more reliability compared to the helicopters used today.

Our student, Jasper Dielemans, who presented this as his Master’s thesis, helped us flesh out a lot of details, and contributed to the awesome research done with local hospitals and first responders to uncover how we could design a better product.

But, this concept has been a long time in the making. So when we got a lot of great responses to the concept, we knew we wanted to share more about the idea. Sitting down with our managing director Gert-Jan van Breugel, we discussed the ideas behind the concept, how the ambulance drone can impact society, and how he thinks MODYN can put an important stamp on the world of mobility. 


So where did this idea come from? What made you and the rest of the MODYN team decide to explore this concept? 

“So to answer that, we have to take a step back, because in the mobility world, we’re actually on the brink of this new mobility layer in our cities, our urban planning, and our society — and that’s with air mobility. And when you look at what this drone technology is capable of accomplishing, it’s on par with what the train did in terms of connecting cities and allowing people to move faster and more freely. So, of course, our team wanted to be part of that, and to have a hand in not only being part of the conversation, but shaping that future.

It’s notable that the bigger part of this conversation of drone mobility has been about personal and public mobility, so it’s interesting MODYN wanted to contribute to that with something as seemingly niche as an ambulance drone.

“Well we really looked at the use case for drone mobility and wanted to design something that would be widely accepted by the general public. I think that’s actually going to be one of the biggest challenges with drone mobility — is public acceptance. But with the ambulance drone, we thought we had a great opportunity to design something that really got public support — showing people how design and innovation could really transform something for the better. With this concept you can really see how much benefit there is in it, and I think we make a really strong case for it now.

interior of the ambulance drone concept

So tell us how your design will win over the public

“Here in the Netherlands, for example, we have just four emergency helicopters on standby for the entire country. They each have a huge area to cover, and it’s made for a difficult situation. These helicopters are also originally designed for military use — and have only been adapted to be used as ambulance vehicles. On top of that, they require a lot of maintenance, they’re not eco-friendly, you need two pilots to fly one, and they’re loud. There are a lot of drawbacks. And with our ambulance drone, we really tried to answer to all of those problems.

A big part of that was talking to pilots, emergency medical technicians, hospitals, stakeholders — you name it. This is very much part of our trademark ‘digging’ phase as we call it, and it’s imperative to understanding the people we’re designing for and the problems we’re looking to solve. In the end, I think we’ve very much come up with a better solution that’s dedicated to saving lives.

In terms of examples, if you look at the interior you can see the way it is designed specifically for emergency responders, from the flow and space to where tools, machines and storage spaces are located. Even the way the patient is transported in and out of the vehicle was thought out — and actually, our work with 3D designs in Virtual Reality really helped with that. Using this technology in our process allowed us to walk around the outside of the ambulance drone, inspect the interior and look inside the cockpit. That VR technology very much helped us design a better product.

Gravity sketch VR plaatje

How do you see the ambulance drone transforming emergency care? The concept is for 2035 — but are we closer than that??

“Yes, definitely. We’ve had a lot of interest in our ambulance drone from the public and industry, and we’re really excited about the discourse around it. Our goal with this ambulance drone is to really offer the public a better, safer option, but to also do so in a way that democratizes the technology so that it’s widely available. 

I’d also like to think that this ambulance drone is a real stepping stone to bigger integration of drone vehicles in society. You know, once people get used to seeing it in use and for such an important task, I think the concept will become much more trusted, allowing this to become part of our everyday lives sooner than you may think.”

For more of Gert-Jan’s takes on mobility, the future and design, be sure to give him a follow on LinkedIn.

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