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US Army investigates unmanned helicopters for search and rescue

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The US Army has put out a request for proposals aiming to develop an unmanned helicopter system for evacuating wounded soldiers from the battlefield.

Kaman K-MAX
Kaman K-MAX

The US Army is considering deploying unmanned helicopters to find and rescue wounded troops from dangerous spots on the battlefield, according to a report from Wired. The article cites a request for proposals from the Army's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which encourages businesses to "investigate, propose and demonstrate prototype technical solutions" for replacing cumbersome, manned medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) choppers with remote-operated solutions.

Vehicles listed as possible candidates in the memo include Kaman K-MAX, pictured above, as well as the Boeing A-160 Hummingbird and the EADS Lakota. Another option is the Urban Aeronautics AirMule, which is already being considered by the Israeli military for a similar role.

The request makes clear that any system would also have scope for use outside the Army, with the winning bidder required to work with emergency services and "Homeland Security agencies" to transition it to civilian use. Any company that passes an initial six-month planning phase will be given up to $1 million over two years to produce a working prototype that can be demonstrated in live MEDEVAC and supply scenarios.