“It’s a very complex problem — even in a manned
situation — with a large degree of uncertainty and a
wide variety of tactical procedures depending on the
conditions,” he said.
“We’ve looked at a number of small unmanned
ground vehicles for locating and gaining access to the
casualty. Assessment and triage are extremely difficult
with unmanned systems. Much of our work to date
includes using remote sensors and cameras which
allow medical professionals to perform diagnosis and
triage using the unmanned system,” Stancil said.
“Once the system gains access to the casualty, we have
only completed the first 10 to 20 percent of the mission.
The Soldier must be protected. In many cases, some level
of treatment may be required. We’ve been looking at
high-degree-of-freedom manipulators attached to our
unmanned ground vehicles to provide some initial and
early basic life support treatments,” he said.
“The process of extracting a casualty is a complex
and scenario-dependent problem for an unmanned system. The Soldier may be stuck, pinned or tangled. They
may have a reduced ability to move or reposition themselves. There are good places and bad places to grab a
Soldier, which can depend heavily on the mechanism of
injury. If they are in the line of fire, we want to get them
to a safe location quickly. In other situations, we may
want to take more time and care,” he said.
“The last stage of the task may also involve evacuating
the wounded Soldier to a higher care facility. This evacuation is often over much larger distances and can require
monitoring and treatments while en route,” Stancil said.
“Neya personnel have demonstrated several mechanisms
for unmanned ground evacuation, and with this K-MAX
demonstration, we are just scratching the surface for
developing command and control interfaces which the
combat medic can use to orchestrate an aerial evacuation.”
The demonstration scenario looked at how to provide
an immediate medical response at a remote location using
air and ground unmanned systems in a combat environment, and underscores the utility of unmanned medical
support, because the medical logistics supply chain is
important for both military and civilian situations.
For example, not all medical facilities have the full
range of blood products. Where red blood cells have a
shelf life of 40 days or more, platelets have a shelf life of
just three days. It isn’t feasible to carry a full range of blood
products. So just-in-time delivery becomes important during an emergency. Immediate delivery of scarce or perishable medical supplies, such as platelets and other blood
products, could be dispatched as needed with a UAV.
A July demonstration in rural Virginia showed how
medicine can be delivered to a remote location. Medicine
was flown by aircraft from Tazewell County Airport to
Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise County, then sent to a
free medical clinic operated by a local health care organ-
ization at the Wise County Fairgrounds using UAVs.
Unmanned logistics support not only is important
for remote areas or rural hospitals. When the I- 35
Mississippi River Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis in
2007, killing 13 and injuring 145, there was an immediate need for a major medical response. Even though
the collapse took place in a major city, access was constrained as the roads were either cut off or jammed
with traffic. UAVs might have been useful in that type
Unmanned Search and Rescue
Singapore-based Zycraft is developing its 56-foot Vigilant-class independent unmanned surface vessel (IUSV) to
embark multimission modular payloads, to include
unmanned search and rescue (SAR). The SAR IUSV will
be equipped with special radar and electro-optic day-and-night camera systems to conduct wide area search.
After a casualty is spotted, the SAR payload is capable of remote recovery of an unconscious casualty into
the IUSV using a robotic arm that is controlled from
the shore base by a manned operator, said James Soon,
president of Zycraft.
“Once placed in the stretcher, biomedical sensors
will provide status of the casualty’s health condition so
that base HQ [headquarters] can then plan accordingly
for further medical evacuation and resources,” he said.
The craft will be able to recover up to eight casualties lying in a special litter rack. If there are conscious
casualties, an additional 15 persons can be seated in
other areas in the IUSV.
“The robotic arm is also designed to tag bodies in the
water for future recovery so that space onboard the USV
is reserved for survivors, leaving body recovery as a last
act once survivors are accounted for,” Soon said. ;
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Because assessment and triage are difficult with
unmanned systems, much of the work to date in remote
medical support includes using remote sensors and cam-
eras that allow medical professionals to perform diagnosis
and triage using the unmanned system.