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article imageUS Air Force looking for proposals for autonomous rescue aircraft

By Ken Hanly     May 18, 2019 in Technology
The Air Force Research Laboratory has put out a solicitation for an autonomous aircraft that would be used to rescue pilots and other people from downed aircraft in dangerous situations.
Whenever, a US Air Force aircraft crashes a rescue team is quickly dispatched to the crash site in order to secure the wreckage if possible and recover the pilot or any others who were on the aircraft. However, in some situations this is dangerous and puts the additional personnel at risk. This is especially the case if there could be enemy fire. In order to avoid this, the Air Force is considering the possibility of adding an autonomous aircraft to its rescue tools.
Requirements for the autonomous aircraft
The solicitation describes the objective of the autonomous aircraft: " Develop and demonstrate a low cost aerial platform capable of transporting 2-4 military personnel (one in medical litter) with no onboard traditional pilot and capable of at least 100 mile radius at speeds above 100kts and taking off and landing at unprepared locations approximately 50 by 50 feet but no larger than 150 ft. for supporting combat search and rescue, personnel recovery, and special operations in the field. "
The aircraft should be able to carry up to 1,400 pounds of equipment as well. Water recovery capability is desirable but not required. The aircraft should also have a low "acoustic audible signature" on takeoff and landing. The Air Force does not say what the vehicle would look like. It could be an autonomous helicopter, a tilt-rotor aircraft, or something else.
The uses of the aircraft
The Federal Bureau of Investigation s Hostage Rescue Team conducting training via helicopter. The FB...
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Hostage Rescue Team conducting training via helicopter. The FBI's Hostage Rescue Team is a law enforcement-based counter-terrorism team in the United States.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
While the aircraft could be a low-cost alternative to search and rescue teams it could also have other functions. The proposal notes that the vehicle could be used in "combat search and rescue, personnel recovery, and special operations". It could be used not only to rescue a downed pilot it could deliver or help remove special operation forces from an area where it would be too dangerous for a helicopter. People in the plane would need no training to operate it. Its activation could be as simple as pressing a button.
There have been a number of civilian efforts to develop autonomous planes by such companies a Airbus, Bell, Boeing and many others. Some of this research such as that on flying cars could be of use in creating the vehicle the Air Force Research Lab wants. However, military models would need to be more robust and fit a wide range of uses.
The solicitation is just the first step in a far longer process. Any companies responding to the solicitation will need to show the Air Force Lab that it is able to actually build and deliver the concept model before the vehicle will actually be developed and tested. One this is all done the move can be made to production. Eventually there could be a revised model aimed at the civilian marketplace.
More about us air force, Autonomous aircraft, rescue aircraft
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