US Air Force seeks “Flying Ambulances”

The United States Air Force Research Laboratory have been looking into a van-sized, autonomous drone that can safely land, pick up a stranded soldier behind enemy lines, and fly him over to safety.

Utilizing technology developed for civilian “air taxi” concepts, the Personnel Recovery\Transport Vehicle can revolutionize search and rescue missions. reports that the PR/TV would be launched from the back of a flying C-130J Hercules aircraft, and with the help of parachutes, the drone will slow down and begin to operate under its own power. Once under its own control, the PR/TV will autonomously fly towards the rescue point, allowing whoever needs rescuing to board the aircraft and then flying towards friendly lines.

The Air Force Research Laboratory calls for the PR/TV to be low-cost, with no traditional on board pilot, an operational radius of 100 nautical miles, a top speed of over 100 knots, space to carry medical supplies and up to four people, and finally the ability to operate at an altitude of 4,000 feet at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

This concept of autonomous flying cars is not exclusive to military applications, with several commercial companies researching to develop flying cars that can be utilized as flying taxis.

An Israeli company called Urban Aeronautics has also been developing its take on a search and rescue, small, electric aircraft. The X-Hawk is a concept that is currently under development, meant to ship or pick up troops from areas where it would be too risky to send conventional helicopters. mentions that the X-Hawk can also assist in civilian rescue from burning buildings or in case of medical emergencies.

Search and rescue missions have been traditionally reserved for elite special units dedicated to that specific task. However, with the development of concepts such as the PR/TV and the X-Hawk, search and rescue units may one day become smaller, UAV operating forces, in contrast to their life-risking counterparts today.