Gordon Folkes started his Orlando company Archer First Response Systems to use drones in new ways.
Thanks to a partnership with Tampa General Hospital, he has started to execute that plan.
Archer could soon be delivering medical supplies to those experiencing cardiac arrest.
“In the back of my mind, I knew the system should be a part of the 9-1-1 process,” he said. “But it felt like such a mountain to climb.”
Last week, Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur took a step to help Folkes climb that mountain.
Manatee County support
He backed a plan in front of commissioners to allow Tampa General Hospital to deploy Archer’s technology in the county.
The county commission approved the effort by a 6-to-1 vote.
Each Archer First Response System uses Internet-connected high-speed drones with onboard computers, GPS, and other technologies to deliver Lifesaving medical equipment.
The on-board packages include an AED, Narcan Nasal Spray and a tourniquet.
The systems cover an area of 35 square miles in under 5 minutes and are based out of fire stations.
Success at FSU
Folkes, 26, said he started flying drones as a hobby.
But that turned into a business venture as a sophomore at Florida State University.
That’s when he won The Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship’s “Innolevation Challenge” with Archer.
At the time, he had targeted master-planned communities and golf courses.
That effort failed.
“I figured with HOA agreements, I could put one into a contract so there were no involuntary participants, which is what the FAA is concerned about,” Folkes said. “99.9% said, ‘No.’”
But Folkes saw a pivot after a successful meeting with a fire chief.
He says the first fire department official who heard his plan bought in immediately.
“It’s validating to have someone say, ‘You’re right, this is a solution,’” he said. “You have to find people who get it.”
Manatee County board
In Manatee County, Saur presented Archer to county commissioners earlier this month.
He backed the plan in front of commissioners, telling them they should strongly consider the chance to be recognized as an innovative community.
He cemented that support for what would be a one-year pilot program with a follow-up post on LinkedIn.
“A lot of stars need to align for this type of pilot program to really get it into operation,” he told commissioners, noting that the initial cost for the county program would be $12, with Tampa General fronting most of the cost.
“This could set the technology for the future,” he continued.
There were some concerns about liability and insurance coverage for the new technology.
But the commissioners moved forward with the item, setting it up to return to the board if Archer gets approval from the FAA.
“I commend the staff for allowing Manatee County to be on the cutting edge of something new with technology,” commissioner Reggie Bellamy said during the meeting.
“Knowing we have a viable answer to a problem that kills 326,000 people a year kept me going,” Folkes said.
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