Drones are already being used in military operations and the delivery of packages, and pretty soon that might be used to save lives in emergency medical situations. A drone ambulance that is designed to airlift two individuals has been autonomously flown for the first time.
The rescue drone is called the AirMule, and it is able to take off and land vertically. The drone is specifically designed to be used in conditions in which landing a manned helicopter would be particularly unfeasible. Such situations include an active battlefield or on unfavorable terrain.
The drone was developed by Israeli technology company Tactical Robotics. While there have been some setbacks in its development, Tactical Robotics finally managed to complete an initial test flight. The drone is able to carry nearly 1,000 pounds and it can fly more than 30 miles in a single trip.
The AirMule makes use of a single engine and internal rotor. It made its initial flight from a temporary testing facility that was set up at the Megiddo Airfield in Israel after receiving permission from the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority. By the end of the year, Tactical Robotics is hoping to demonstrate the cargo carrying abilities of the drone. Beyond-line-of-sight testing has also been scheduled.
Although the primary purpose of the drone is to conduct evacuations from active battle sites, the AirMule has other purposes as well. The compact drone system is able to fly in close proximity to buildings and other obstructions thanks to its internal rotor system. This gives it a major advantage over other air ambulances.
Tactical Robotics is not the only company working to develop drones designed to carry people. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Chinese Ehang 184 drone was revealed to the public. This single-passenger drone is able to fly for up to 23 minutes at speeds in excess of 63 mph.