The Army wants to modernize battlefield medicine with blood delivery by drone

The Army wants to modernize battlefield medicine with blood delivery by drone

Mock patients waited in the desert south to Death Valley for drones that would deliver simulated blood. California’s Fort Irwin is an Army base that hosted an event called Project Convergence 2022 from late September into November, an annual exercise led by the United States where militaries of multiple nations work together to explore new technologies in service of war. The military is testing drone delivery of medical supplies in conjunction with other tech to see if it can help soldiers survive after combat injuries.

Participant in Project Convergence, Project Crimson involved drones dropping medical aid to field medics during a simulated mass casualty situation.

“Project Crimson aims to take a common unmanned aircraft system and adapt it for a medical mission,” Nathan Fisher, chief of medical robotics division at the US Army’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, in a . release. “This drone supports medical field treatment when casualty evacuation is not an option. It can keep whole blood, and other important items, in the portable refrigeration unit. This unit can be taken to the field with wounded warriors .

Researchers first proved that drones could successfully deliver blood in 2015. Drones can transport small amounts of blood as cargo. In the summer of 2021, British marines tested blood delivery by drone swarm, with the dedicated resupply drones carrying everything from ammunition to blood to troops in the field.

For Project Crimson, the army used a FVR-90 drone, a vertical takeoff and landing UAV. Two outriggers attached to the drone’s wings each feature two rotors, allowing the FVR-90 to launch and land like a quadcopter. In flight, the FVR-90 flies like a fixed-wing plane, with a front-facing propeller and its over 15-feet wide wingspan allowing for long-lasting efficient flight of up to 16 hours. The FVR-90 tops out at 74 mph, but it can carry up to 10 pounds of payload under its wings, ready to drop and deliver.

The drone doesn’t require a runway or catapult launch to perform lifesaving missions. This allows military personnel to save lives in the critical phase of injury, and facilitates rapid transport to an Army hospital for continued treatment,” stated the release.

The Army wants to modernize battlefield medicine with blood delivery by drone
An exercise involving the Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit on Nov. 7, 2022. Us Army / Samuel Brandon

The army tested remote communication and diagnostic tools that could be used to help field medics manage injuries in the field.

One of these is the Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit (or BATDOK). It’s a smartphone app that can work with sensors placed on the patients, scanning information and then storing it for up to 25 patients per device. This information can be shared with other devices or transferred via protocols such as Bluetooth and WiFi. Field medics can seamlessly pass along records to patients at the point when they are transferred to better care.

” The facility can monitor the patient’s condition using BATDOK. Meanwhile, the ground medics can update the treatment and medication for the patients. This allows the facility be alerted and ready to treat the patient once they have been transported,” Michael Sedillo (an integrated cockpit sensing program director at the Air Force Research Laboratory) stated in a press release.

As part of Project Convergence troops carried litters with mock casualties to medical transports. Medics applied care in transit. Field medics and hospital staff exchanged records using local communications infrastructure to ensure smooth flow of care at the field hospital.

Project Convergence included participants from the British and Australian Armies, with allied nations like Canada and New Zealand observing.

Exercises like these will help the military not only fight wars but also ensure that injuries on the battlefield are dealt with as quickly as possible. Drone resupply can help people stay alive in the field until reinforcements or evacuation arrive. Better data management can ensure that as little information is lost during the transfer of care as possible, allowing medical teams to move forward with treatment as conditions permit.

As robots and data tools become more common on the battlefield, training in these labor-saving tools should allow soldiers to concentrate on the task of saving lives while machines provide the tools.

View a video about Project Convergence here:

YouTube video

Kelsey D. Atherton

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