The remote-controlled flying machines have been used to lower flotation devices to struggling swimmers, while operators recently used a video stream from a drone’s onboard camera to help lead people to safety during a volcanic eruption in Hawaii. Inspired by the positive work being performed by drones in emergency situations, Vincenzo Navanteri recently came up with a design for a quadcopter large enough to carry a person to safety.
Judges at the recent World Air Sports’ International Drones Conference were so impressed with Navanteri’s concept design that they awarded him the Prince Alvaro de Orleans-Borbon Grant, worth $20,000. Accepting the award in Lausanne, Switzerland, the 34-year-old Italian said he’ll use the cash to help him and his team develop the autonomous air ambulance, which, in simple terms, looks like an enormous quadcopter with a stretcher on top.
The design includes an onboard camera and backup batteries, as well as an oxygen supply unit and health-monitoring technology. Navanteri envisions a machine that can operate in all weathers and in a variety of testing situations, including earthquakes, floods, and even nuclear contamination zones. The team’s aim is to build a self-flying machine capable of carrying a person — or emergency supplies — weighing up to 265 pounds (120 kg) at speeds of up to 68 mph (110 kph).
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