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Volume 22 Supplement 1

London Trauma Conference 2013

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How to improve situation assessment and decision-making in a simulated mass casualty incident by using an unmanned aerial vehicle


Situation assessment and decision-making is challenging in the complex task environment of pre-hospital critical care. Human attention is a limited resource, critical information is often missing and cues in the situation may be misinterpreted, misdiagnosed or ignored. We evaluated the feasibility of using a remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to gather information from the air in order to support decision-making in a simulated major incident.


A mass casualty incident was constructed to mimic a car against bus accident with 25 entrapped school children [1]. A radio controlled, multi rotor, electrical UAV was equipped with a daylight - and an infrared video camera and was directed into the location. Video from the site of the accident was wirelessly streamed to a ground station.


The aerial vehicle was maneuvered at different altitudes and positions in and around the area of interest with good accuracy. Video from the rescue operation was recorded using the daylight camera, and the infrared camera was able to localize people that were trapped in the dark inside the bus. Video streaming from the air provided crucial information about the course of events and status at the scene that would not have been possible to obtain from the ground. We achieved useful information on how to collect, interpret and make use of the data to improve the processes of assessing the scene, make sound decisions and distribute the recourses according to need.


Rotor-wing unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with video cameras can provide useful decision making support in major incidents. They seem especially useful in gathering information in high-risk work environments, when the access to patients is limited or restricted and in mass casualties where the geographical extent of an event is large.


  1. Timbie JW et al: Systematic review of strategies to manage and allocate scarce resources during mass casualty events. Ann Emerg Med. 2013, 61 (6): 677-689. 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2013.02.005.

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Correspondence to Håkon B Abrahamsen.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Abrahamsen, H.B. How to improve situation assessment and decision-making in a simulated mass casualty incident by using an unmanned aerial vehicle. Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med 22 (Suppl 1), P2 (2014).

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