UFO? No, Ambulance! – Betting on the future of urban emergency transportation from CES 2019

At the CES 2019 in Las Vegas has been showcased a taxi drone that can be put on service within 10 years in many cities of the world. What if this technology will be applied also to ambulance?

LAS VEGAS – Imagine to provide dispatch with your ambulance. The patient is in critical conditions and you have to rush among cars, trucks, and streets in a big city centre to reach him/her out. But you turn out to be jammed into traffic and the patient’s life is in serious danger. The only thing you would do is to fly over those vehicles and buildings to reach as soon as possible your patient in need.

Who says that it cannot be possible? In these days something is changing and maybe a flying ambulance is ready to replace ground emergency vehicles in our future ( a future not so far!).

These are the days of CES 2019 (Consumers Electronic Show), where the most important technologies will be presented to the world.  In particular, one of those captured the interest of many. It is well known that drones are the main characters of the technologic revolution, however, this one will astonish you all.

Its name is BELL Nexus, and it is projected to be an air taxi that will move people between towering skyscrapers, over traffic-clogged streets, if urban air mobility takes off in the next 10 years. This technologic jewel, developed by Bell is planned to be a fully-autonomous capable, ducted-fan driven, hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle flying by the mid-2020s.

This air vehicle should be flying by 2025 and it may have many different configurations, such as for the emergency field.

The Nexus by Bell at CES 2019

What about a flying ambulance that in chaotic cities like Manhattan, Shanghai, Tokyo and also Rome could fly over streets, going round skyscraper and buildings to reach as soon as possible a patient in need?

Such flying drone is projected to have a luggage storage, i.e. a compartment in the back that may carry emergency kits, oxygen tanks, emergency backpacks, and so on. It is projected to carry max. 4 people, so one day, it can be arranged to carry both the patient and the crew, like a paramedic or a nurse and a pilot, including the emergency equipment.

But how does this ambulance could literally…fly?

Such a mix of a tiltrotor airplane and a drone is equipped of six pivoting ducted fans attached to a fuselage that will reduce noise, and can carry 4 passengers and a pilot. The solution for the power would surely be the electricity, however, reaching a more electric and hybrid-electric propulsion will require time. This drone needs a great power to carry people.

A turbine engine is integrated into the aft roof of the vehicle that feeds power both to the six rotors but also to a battery. The way in which each rotor operates by its own direct-drive electric motor located on each pylon can draw power from either the engine or battery. And this allows the turbine to run independent of the rotors, allowing for the spinning blades to stop when the aircraft lands without shutting down the engine, like a traditional helicopter.

Why could it be the solution? 

We know that helicopters already are like flying ambulances, nowadays. But, their dimensions (in particular the dimensions of their blades can be dangerous when flying among buildings. The helicopter is studied to fly in wider spaces, and, in particular, it must have a pilot. New researchers will be carried out to put on practice a new controlling system that will work without a pilot. So the flying ambulance will be able to carry 2 members of the emergency crew and pick up patient containing even more emergency tools and devices in case of no driver.

Of course, this is only a hypothesis of how a vehicle like that could be turned into an emergency vehicle. The idea of a flying ambulance is not so far after all. It will determine a strong development for our future, with a higher range of people saved every year.