A $20,000 prize has been awarded to Italian Vincenzo Navanteri by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). Navanteri won the Prince Alvaro de Orleans-Borbon Grant at the FAI International Drones Conference and Expo, in Lausanne, Switzerland, for his drone ambulance concept.
Switzerland, of course, is no stranger to drones transforming traditional medical services. US startup Matternet is already in several Swiss cities providing transportation services for medical supplies.
Emergency transportation of people
Navanteri’s concept goes one step further, though. Instead of carrying a defibrillator to an emergency scene or getting medicines and bloods from A to B, the grant was awarded for to help his team develop their idea of a self-piloting drone ambulance, capable of ferrying a single person for up to 150km at 110km/h.
Collecting the award Navanteri, said: “It is a pleasure to receive this grant, and to use it for development. As a company it is what we need. And, more than my own business, it will support the general development of this type of technology.”
The Aero Ambulance
The idea of an autonomous “aero ambulance” that can quickly and easily evacuate a single person is an appealing one. Just as medical drone deliveries have been granted more leeway by regulators than more trivial applications, a life-saving transport service could also gain traction more easily.
Highlights of Navanteri’s design include:
- Autonomous (self-piloting) in flight
- 150km range
- Maximum speed of 110km/h
- Maximum altitude 1,000m
- Carries up to 120kg
- Destination set by GPS coordinates
- 8 electric-driven propellers
- Backup batteries
- On-board cameras and communications system
- Onboard oxygen supply and medical monitoring
Outlining a single-person drone that could carry an injured person out of harm’s way in all weather, Navanteri said, “The drone is intended mainly for rescue and first-aid missions – urgent interventions in remote villages, or where access is temporarily difficult.”
The drone would be able to used by trained non-pilot staff, for example doctors or first-responders in an emergency situation. The power to drive the battery-driven propellers would come from two gas-driven micro-turbines, each with its own high-speed generator and independent gas storage.
Navanteri said: “This revolutionary blade-less and highly efficient micro-turbine technology is patented by us and is key to the long range of the drone.”
He continued: “The core of our business is the turbine that creates the electricity to power the drone. So I am happy because it means people actually understand that our technology will help move drones forward, away from simple 20-minute battery-life. I am very happy because it means people understand what we are doing.
“I didn’t expect to win this award. I have never entered this type of competition – I was lucky and we won!”
FAI focus on drones for good
On presenting the award, FAI President Frits Brink said, “We are extremely happy to present this award for such an innovative project. 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.”
The theme for the 2018 award was Drones for Humanity. Special consideration was given to projects that focused on drones dedicated to humanitarian or search-and-rescue projects.