Exploring the deployment of autonomous medical emergency vessels in island and coastal regions : An overview of the opportunities and challenges
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- Master Thesis 
Introduction: Applications of vessels in emergency medical systems: Method: Discussion: Conclusion: Emergency medical systems in island and coastal regions face challenges such as supply and staffing shortages and a dispersion of resources and people, which negatively affect the timely and efficient delivery of emergency medical services. This thesis explores the opportunities and challenges of using autonomous vessels in these systems to start a discussion, as current research in this area is very limited. Currently, emergency vessels are primarily used to transfer patients to hospitals, doctors to emergency sites as well as equipment between islands. Floating hospitals ships generally combine these functions by enable comprehensive consultation, diagnosis, and treatment at the emergency sites. Additionally, rescue and search operations can also be counted among the tasks of emergency medical systems if one considers an extended range of tasks for these systems. The location of hub facilities, where autonomous vessels are stationed when not in operation, is one of the first decisions to be made when integrating those vessels into current emergency systems. Therefore, the model for solving the maximal covering location problem is applied and adjusted to cover a wider range of application of vessels in emergency medical systems. Simulations are conducted to identify opportunities to improve system performance when setting hub facilities for autonomous vessels. Hub facilities for autonomous vessels can be located at a greater number of locations, leading to better population coverage in some cases. Furthermore, the complexity of response routes can be decreased by the ability of autonomous vessels to transform current applications of vessels in emergency medical systems. Despite several other opportunities to reduce response times and use resources more efficiently, there are also challenges associated with the use of autonomous vessels. Some main challenges are to successfully integrate the new vessels into the existing system and to ensure their use by the population. Additionally, the costs of autonomous vessels are likely to exceed those of conventional vessels requiring in-depth cost-benefit considerations. Autonomous vessels have a great potential to enhance the performance of emergency medical systems in island and coastal regions. Most of the challenges can be mitigated by carefully planning their operations and introduction of the vessels into the existing system. However, in the context of scarce funding, higher costs compared to conventional vessels are likely to be the most significant challenge for the introduction of autonomous vessels.