Near Earth Autonomy and L3Harris Technologies announced today that they have successfully demonstrated an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of autonomously delivering life-saving blood and other medical supplies hundreds of miles from operational bases to medics in the field. Whole blood is the ideal fluid for hemorrhagic shock treatment in tactical combat care. The U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Development Command’s (USAMRDC) Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) sponsored the demonstration to identify ways to save Warfighters’ lives in situations where access to whole blood in the field can be challenging.

The project also addresses the problem of whole blood going unused and wasted by recovering it to blood banks in reusable condition. Near Earth successfully integrated its autonomous flight systems and L3Harris’ FVR-90 hybrid VTOL aircraft to demonstrate multiple delivery scenarios. In one example, the UAS analyzed landing areas using onboard sensors to find a safe, unobstructed location. In other tests, the ground was too cluttered for the vehicle to land, so transport pods were dropped from a low altitude hover or released via parachute. The demonstration took place in Ft. Pickett, VA, in August of 2021.

“When combined with autonomous delivery zone evaluation, vertical takeoff and landing and long-distance flight can transform field supply logistics.” Sanjiv Singh, CEO of Near Earth, said, “This project allowed us to demonstrate the utility of autonomous, safe landing in complex, unstructured environments. It is especially gratifying to speak to end users who can benefit from the life-saving applications that are now possible through this innovative program.”

This research and development initiative was conducted by Near Earth Autonomy and L3Harris and is made possible by a contract that was awarded and administered by the U.S. Army Medical Research & Development Command (USAMRDC) and the Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), at Fort Detrick, MD.

Why it’s important: This collaboration effort provides substantiation to EMS and first responder roles for unmanned aerial vehicle systems, and showcases the types of use cases that have impacts on the health and safety of those in the military (which could easily be expanded to include civilians as well). Though the primary application of this technology is military based, early technological advances will eventually permeate to civilian applications as well.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz

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