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New Device Aims To Change How Doctors Reach Patients In Disaster Zones

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new medical-rescue drone was unveiled Monday at the Osteopathic Medical Education Conference in Center City. It may be the key to saving lives in a disaster.

Using geo-location on your smart phone, HIRO - or Healthcare Integrated Rescue Operations drone - can fly to an emergency call and be the next best thing to having a doctor present.

(credit: Kristen Johanson)

Co-developer, Dr. Italo Subbarao, says it guides a bystander or other caregiver through the steps of helping a patient using a small camera on a pair of glasses.

"Technology that will instruct them to put the smart glasses on, (and the gloves) and an ear piece," Subbarao said, "and the physician will come on the screen, and will say 'what is the emergency' or 'show me the emergency.'"

The drone arrives with life-saving supplies like tourniquets, bandages and drugs.

"Those medications are located in remotely controlled locked bins," Subbarao explained, "and we also have diagnostic equipment that we can stream their vital signs."

Special glasses and an ear piece connect a person on the scene to a doctor offsite.

There's a camera located in the middle of the lens that would stream the video from the field and into the physician portal.

A demonstration video from William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine shows fake distress and how people on the scene could help the injured.

There's real-time interaction and instructions from the offsite doctor.

"The physician on the other side of the kit is able to control it remotely and be able to provide timely life-saving medications to that patient in the field," said Subbarao.

When the offsite doctor determines certain medications are needed he opens locked boxes in the kit.

It's like a remote-controlled mini-ambulance, also equipped with video to demonstrate various medical techniques.

The drone technology is still being worked on, making sure it can go a longer distance with a heavier load, and there's a big emphasis on safety and communication that happens mainly with a satellite.

Right now HIRO is in test-flight, with hopes of launching by early next year.

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