A team of researchers from the Czech Technical University in Prague (including the STILL research lab at our department) is collaborating with the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Defence, the Czech Armed Forces, the NATO Allied Command Transformation Innovation Hub and the DefSec Innovation Hub on a system to assist in the treatment of wounded soldiers in combat situations or in crisis situations in which the Armed Forces assist the First Responders. The first prototype is currently being tested and will be further expanded and deployed in field tests in cooperation with the Czech Armed Forces.
"Cooperation in the defence and security sector is very important for CTU. We have professional capacities in a number of technological and disciplinary directions and we are ready to use them within the third role of the university to effectively support the state and society. I see the newly launched project with the elite American Johns Hopkins University and other partners as an effective opportunity for synergy between the military and academia," says the Rector of CTU Assoc. Prof. Vojtěch Petráček.
In combat or during crisis situations, such as eliminating the consequences of a terrorist attack, mass casualties may occur. For field medics or members of a unit with special medical training to provide extended first aid in the field (Combat Life Saver, CLS), the situation is often confusing and makes it difficult to examine the injured soldier. "This also makes it difficult to determine the extent to which their life is at risk and to prioritise their treatment and subsequent evacuation. Soldiers wear 30 to 50 kg of equipment, they may be under fire, or there may be reduced visibility in the area for various reasons," says security consultant Kristina Soukupová from the Def Sec Innovation Hub.
"The question of the speed in providing specialist care is absolutely crucial for the wounded. First aid must be given within the first 10 minutes from the moment of injury. In the first hour (the so-called "Golden Hour"), surgical treatment should be achieved with the performance of life-saving procedures and stabilisation of the injured person for further transport. The flexibility and efficiency of the evacuation chain often determines the chance of survival of the injured soldiers. In the case of mass casualties and large numbers of wounded, it is essential to address their triage and prioritize MEDEVAC. This is the area where our research using new technologies is focused," says Colonel Hynek Schvach from the Department of Military Medical Management at the Faculty of Military Health Sciences of the University of Defence.
Effective support of this process is the focus of the Digital Triage Assistant (DTA) system. What is interesting about the DTA plan is that it started at the conceptual level as a student project at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Gradually it has expanded into a large-scale project that is currently being collaborated on by the Department of Computer Science at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the CTU, the Center for Leadership Education of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the NATO Allied Command Transformation Innovation Hub, the Def Sec Innovation Hub, the Department of Information and Communication Technologies in Medicine at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering of the CTU, the Department of Military Medical Management at the Faculty of Military Health Sciences of the University of Defense, and the Czech Armed Forces. The findings and the basic system design have already been presented at the NATO workshop "Biosensors supporting Healthcare in Missions - Consolidating and Defining the Possibilities of implementation" in May 2021.
Simplistically, it can be said that fellow experts from JHU are currently developing a medical model of the problem and CTU is providing the technical part of the project using ongoing consultations with security experts. "Soldiers are equipped with sensors that capture information on selected vital signs that are most relevant to determining the condition of an injured soldier. This system will allow us to estimate the severity of the injury before the actual physical examination," describes the function of the system Assoc. Prof. Miroslav Bureš from the STILL research lab at the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, CTU. He continues: ”The microcomputer continuously evaluates the vital data of the wounded from the detected data and transmits it to the paramedic to estimate the probability of survival of the wounded soldiers. Although there is great potential for the application of artificial intelligence methods, the project does not yet have the ambition to fully automate this decision-making."
The system can operate in several modes. For example, if there is no need to keep radio silence in a particular situation, the detected data is transmitted over a network to a server, which allows for the display of the positions of soldiers, their status and other additional data on the map. The design of the sensors themselves represents a major challenge within the project. "Our Flexi Guard system is currently being used as the first prototype in the system, which allows various vital signs to be measured with great accuracy. This system has already been successfully applied in the case of difficult field conditions, for example in a pilot operation with firefighters or with field medics," says Dr. Pavel Smrčka from the Department of Information and Communication Technologies in Medicine at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering of the CTU.
In the next phases of the DTA project, the sensors will need to be modified to be as compatible as possible with the standard equipment of military units. "For example, we will address compatibility with bulletproof vests or the lowest possible weight of the device. The project has recently received very positive feedback from NATO ACT specialists. The involvement of military experts from various fields from the beginning of the project has also contributed to this," adds Assoc. Prof. Miroslav Bureš.
- Czech Radio (ČRo Plus), June 21, 2021 (recording starts at 15:48:05)
- Czech Television (ČT24), July 2, 2021 (recording starts at 00:17:44)