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Australia Develops ‘Revolutionary’ Electric Air Ambulance

Vertiia full-scale prototype, rear view. (Courtesy: AMSL Aero)
Vertiia full-scale prototype, rear view. (Courtesy: AMSL Aero)

An electric “aero-ambulance” that is estimated to be faster, safer and quieter than a helicopter has been developed by researchers in Australia.

The aero ambulance is called Vertiia. It is an electric, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft designed to get patients to the hospital quicker and more safely.

It is set for commercial release in 2023, and developers say it will be the world’s most efficient aircraft of its type for passenger and “aeromedical transport.”

The transfer of patients in remote parts of Australia can be slow. Often, they must be driven to an airport by ambulance, transferred onto a plane, and then back into another ambulance for delivery to the hospital.

Vertiia aims to take them from door to door.

It is built to cruise at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour and travel 250 kilometers powered by electric batteries before needing to recharge. It is also designed to travel nonstop for more than 800 kilometers using hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Sydney, the startup company AMSL Aero and the charity CareFlight.

Associate Professor Dries Verstraete is an aerospace engineer from the University of Sydney.

His team is working to increase the aircraft’s efficiency through its aerodynamic and structural design and reduce its operating costs.

“Aero ambulances work by taking off vertically and tilting the wing to horizontal, to tilt it back before they land," he said. "The advantage of this concept is that they are flying efficiently like an aircraft, but they can still take off like a helicopter, and this allows us to reach more people in a shorter time and do that in a way that is safer than helicopters and also significantly quieter.”

The project has received federal government funding of U.S. $2.2 million.

Michael McCormack, Australia’s deputy prime minister, said it was “a revolution in aeromedical support.”

Vertiia is currently flown by pilots, but researchers want to be able to fly it by computer in bad weather and other hazardous conditions.