Volocopter's air taxi to take part in air rescue field testing
A feasibility study modeled on Volocopter's VoloCity multirotor electric air taxi has concluded that electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft would benefit emergency air rescue services. Now the project is looking to begin operational testing in 2023.
The focus of the study by charitable air rescue service ADAC Luftrettung, and sponsored by the non-profit ADAC Foundation, was to determine if rescue services could be improved by using multicopters to quickly transport emergency doctors in rescue scenarios.
Researchers from the Institute for Emergency Medicine and Medical Management of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich used historical data from the Rescue Coordination Center to create computer simulations of 26,000 emergency operations using multicopters in areas of Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate. And they concluded that operating eVTOLs in air rescue scenarios could lead to notable improvements in emergency care over an operating radius of 25 to 30 km (11.5-18.6 mi), based on multicopters with a minimum range of 150 km (over 90 mi) and capable of optimal flight speeds in the 100-150 km/h (62-93 mph) ball park.
The researchers determined that the eVTOLs could get to an emergency twice as fast as ground-based vehicles, and could serve two to three times as many patients over a larger service area. Though intended to work alongside existing fleets of air rescue helicopters, electric multirotor flyers could lead to more efficient use of helicopters in the future. They could, for example, be used to transport emergency doctors for on-site treatment in the majority of cases, while helicopters could be reserved for patient transport and only deployed if needed.
The study also concluded that such electric aircraft might also lead to more efficient deployment of emergency doctors, and help meet personnel shortages as a result.
The performance specs given above are currently beyond the capabilities of the VoloCity air taxi used as a technical template for the study, but the researchers do see eVTOLs being capable of such things in around four years or so. For reference, the 18-rotor VoloCity has a per charge range of 35 km (22 mi) and has a top speed of 110 km/h (68 mph).
A piloted aircraft will need to be weight-optimized so that it can be used to safely transport both the emergency doctor and any special equipment that may be required, and the pilot would be required to undergo emergency medical training in case the physician requires assistance in the field.
The study also looked at economics and legal feasibility, with researchers conducting the study confident that incorporating multirotor aircraft into rescue operations has cost effectiveness potential, but did note that adjustments in current regulations may need to be made before such aircraft become part of emergency response setups.
However, the overall results were so positive that the project is planning to put the solution to the test.
"Today we are convinced that multicopters can help shape and improve future rescue services," said ADAC Luftrettung's Frédéric Bruder. "The results are so promising that will pursue operational testing of the project."
That field testing is due to start in 2023 and will take place at the areas used for the study models: the Ansbach rescue service area and the ADAC air rescue station in Dinkelsbühl, Bavaria, and the Idar-Oberstein region of Rhineland-Palatinate, at a new multicopter-only base. But before then, Volocopter will undertake its own technical test flights to see how the VoloCity handles such things as take-off and landing on slopes, operating in poor visibility or at night, and flying in challenging weather conditions.
"Fifty years ago, the ADAC was one of the first in Germany to test the use of rescue helicopters in a field trial," added Bruder. "So, it is only logical that today we are the first to lead the air rescue sector in Germany into the future with new technologies."
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