What do you think about a drone that can haul over 1000 pounds of cargo, fly for 30 mins at speeds up to 100 miles per hour and is rather stealthy when it comes to radar detection? Well, if you’re someone who feels safe on a day-to-day basis then you probably think that a drone like that would be perfect for search and rescue as well, disaster relief and maybe crowd control for riots. On the other hand, if you live in part of the world that’s hostile then a drone like this would certainly make your enemies think twice about attacking you.
Well, let me introduce you to the 20ft long and 7ft tall AirMule autonomous ambulance drone.
The AirMule, which can take off and land vertically, is designed for conditions where landing a helicopter is unfeasible – such as on a battlefield.
The AirMule which is designed to airlift 2 people took its first untethered flight on December 30, 2015 at a temporary testing facility at the Megiddo airfield. The AirMule has a significant edge over traditional air ambulances due to it’s internal rotor system. An internal rotor will allow the AirMule to fly safely near buildings, trees and even mountain sides without the fear of accidents due to an external rotor clipping obstructions like power lines and rocks.
The tight packaging and compact propulsion system allows the AirMule move laterally without rolling and navigate constricted areas—say, between buildings—and the company claims the craft can handle winds reaching 50 knots. That’s impressive, given that the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s Interagency Helicopter Operations Guide advises against flying in winds exceeding 40 knots at an altitude of less than 500 feet.
The AirMule could also deliver supplies to injured people in disaster areas for humanitarian relief operations and environmental disasters when it would be traditionally unsafe to send a helicopter with a pilot. With upgrades to the flight control system and a more powerful turboshaft engine the AirMule will be better equipped to fly in bad weather as well as increase it’s maximum speed of 112mph and fly as high as 18,000ft. The increase in speed and altitude would help improve the outcome of patient care and safety.
But no matter the potential the AirMule and similar drones may have it still must be safe for not only those it was designed to help but also safe for people and communities in it’s flight path.
“Our vehicles are designed from the outset to meet FAA safety requirements for manned helicopters,” says Yoeli. “This is to ensure that down the road the public will be allowed to purchase and fly these vehicles legally and safely.”-Wired
I am looking forward to seeing how the AirMule performs during it’s beyond-line-of-sight flight with cargo later in 2016.
Where do you think the tech for search and rescue with drones is going to go in 2016?