An Israeli Company Is Testing Flying Ambulance Drones
Urban Aeronautics is developing an unmanned flying ambulance called the "AirMule" that combines the in-and-out agility of a helicopter with the ability to perform rescues in dense urban environments that are difficult to manuever through in a rotor-based vehicle.
In a post last month, Gizmodo's Andrew Tarantola described the vehicle's capabilities:
"The AirMule, as its called by its creator, Dr. Rafi Yoeli, CEO of Urban Aeronautics, is a VTOL UAV measuring 20 feet long, over 6 feet wide, and weighing one ton. It rides atop a pair of ducted fans powered by a Turbomeca Ariel jet engine-similar to Germany's " flying Jeep " concept from the 1950's. The AirMule is directed and controlled via via a series of 200 directional air flaps and can fly both remotely or autonomously while carrying up to 880 pounds of cargo."
We first heard about the AirMule from a post today by Joshua Krisch for Popular Mechanics. If you're wondering how much flying ambulance drones cost and when we might see them, Krishch writes:
"The single aircraft cost $2.5 million to build, and another prototype is due to appear later this year. Urban Aeronautics plans to release its first ambulance drone before 2020, pending additional test flights and increased demand from buyers. "
A much quieter, remotely-piloted aircraft like this would be a game changer for military personnel. Medical evacuations for wounded troops have greatly improved since the introduction of the helicopter, but pilots still must be weary of enemy fire. That won't be the case with a pilot controlling the aircraft far from the danger.
The AirMule isn't just for military use, however. It could also be used for delivering aid to isolated populations or rescuing people in disaster-stricken areas.
You can watch the AirMule's December flight test in the video below: