Partner Capabilities Enable Medical Supply Delivery
Autonomous solutions aim to improve the health outcomes of warfighters.
Pittsburgh-based Near Earth Autonomy, developer of autonomous flight systems, and Melbourne, Florida-based L3 Harris Technologies are partnering in a medically oriented effort and are seeing progress. According to Near Earth, the companies successfully demonstrated an unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) and system that can autonomously deliver whole blood and other medical supplies hundreds of miles from an operational base to medics in precise locations.
The demonstration, held at Fort Pickett, Virginia, in August 2021, was part of the U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Development Command’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center’s (TATRC’s) effort to provide access to whole blood in tactical environments and save more warfighters’ lives. The effort also addresses the issue of safely transporting back any unused whole blood to blood banks.
“Near Earth and L3Harris have developed a compelling technical solution to a challenging problem statement derived from current needs and future operating concepts,” said Nathan Fisher, chief, Medical Robotic and Autonomous Systems Division, TATRC. “Together, they have smartly integrated their aircraft autonomy and blood storage system with a capable UAV, demonstrating the ability to support field care, when immediate patient evacuation is not possible, through long-range delivery and recovery of critical supplies without requiring any forward infrastructure.”
The demonstrated capability includes Near Earth’s autonomous flight systems and L3Harris’ FVR-90 hybrid vertical take-off and landing UAV. The UAV was able to find and analyze appropriate landing areas through its autonomous sensors. When no appropriate landing site was available, the system dropped its cargo pods from a low altitude hover or parachute.
“This achievement leveraged L3Harris and Near Earth’s broad UAS expertise to address the exact type of advanced missions that our warfighters need,” said Dave Duggan, president, Precision Engagement Systems, L3Harris. “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 Autonomy, added, “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.”