autonomous drone ambulance concept wins creator 20000 prize
Vincenzo Navanteri

Quadcopters are proving to be an exciting technology in a lot of fields, none more so than emergency services where they can be sent into disaster areas to assess damage, send medical equipment, drop supplies, and help plan airlifts.

The remotely controlled flying machines have been used to lower flotation devices to struggling swimmers, while operators recently used a video stream from a drone’s on-board camera to help lead people to safety during a volcanic eruption in Hawaii.

Inspired by the positive work being performed by drones in emergency situations, Vincenzo Navanteri recently came up with a design for a quadcopter large enough to carry a person to safety.

Judges at the recent World Air Sports’ International Drones Conference were so impressed with Navanteri’s concept design that they awarded him the Prince Alvaro de Orleans-Borbon Grant, worth $20,000.

Accepting the award in Lausanne, Switzerland, the 34-year-old Italian said he’ll use the cash to help him and his team develop the autonomous air ambulance, which, in simple terms, looks like an enormous quadcopter with a stretcher on top.

The design includes an on-board camera and back-up batteries, as well as an oxygen supply unit and health-monitoring technology. Navanteri envisions a machine that can operate in all weathers and in a variety of testing situations, including earthquakes, floods, and even nuclear contamination zones.

The team’s aim is to build a self-flying machine capable of carrying a person — or emergency supplies — weighing up to 265 pounds (120 kg) at speeds of up to 68 mph (110 kmh).

Its unique technology could also see it flying non-stop for up to 95 miles (150 km). The quadcopter’s range, which is the standout feature for Navanteri, would be achieved thanks to its two gas-driven micro-turbines that generate the electricity to power the battery-driven propellers. The creator said he believes the patented technology is “revolutionary” and will help “move drones forward, away from simple 20-minute battery-life.”

Presenting the award, FAI president Frits Brink described Navanteri’s design as “innovative,” adding, “The potential for drones to do good is great, and ideas like this single-person drone ambulance show the potential. The technology underpinning this idea is real — a drone ambulance used in search and rescue is not simply a good idea, it is a realistic one too.”

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