Israel is moving towards combat medical evacuation by unmanned aircraft. The non-profit Aerospace Medicine Research Center is leading industry in a preliminary design phase to determine whether rotary wing or ducted fan would be the best vertical take-off and landing platform.
Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries and Urban Aeronautics are also participating in the project. The rotary option would be based on an existing operational medevac helicopter, operated unmanned from a ground station. The ducted-fan platform could be based on Urban's Mule UAV.
The need for unmanned evacuation of wounded from a combat zone became acute during the recent war in Lebanon, when Israeli air force helicopters had to perform medevac missions under heavy fire. The air force is following the joint effort and may offer inputs at a later date.
According to Dr Eran Schenker, head of the centre, the selected platform will be equipped with mobile life support for trauma and transport (MLSTAT) systems, enabling remote monitoring of the patient's condition and remote emergency treatment. The unmanned platform will also carry a passive and active self-protection system.
The group's first meeting resulted in the basic design of a ducted-fan UAV with a maximum take-off weight of 1,725kg (3,800lb), 225kg of fuel and useful payload of 705kg top speed of 100kt (185km/h), maximum altitude of 12,000ft (3,660m) and an endurance of 3-5h.
IAI's Malat division is developing a kit that turns a manned helicopter into an unmanned platform, which has already been tested on a Bell 206. Urban, meanwhile, is developing the ducted-fan Mule for combat-zone supply and medevac missions. The 1,090kg UAV would be able to carry two wounded soldiers and fuel for 2h of flight.