The University of Maryland (UMD) Shore Regional Health and the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site at UMD recently conducted what they say was the state’s first civil unmanned aerial delivery of simulated medical cargo.
Engineers from UMD flew a Talon 120LE fixed-wing aircraft across the Chesapeake Bay with saline solution simulating four vials of Epinephrine to demonstrate the key role that UAS can play in emergency situations.
“This is a major achievement for our test site and for the University of Maryland,” says Darryll J. Pines, dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. “What this flight demonstrates is the incredible potential that UAS have in assisting first responders in emergencies. As more of these aircraft enter the skies, demonstrations of their use in service to humanity will grow substantially.”
Weighing 22 lbs. at takeoff, the small UAS was hand-launched from the shores of Flag Ponds Nature Park in Lusby, Md., and landed at Ragged Island Private Airport in Cambridge, Md. It flew 12 miles in total and was greeted by a security officer from Shore Regional Health, who then retrieved the package and transported it to the UM Shore Medical Center at Dorchester.
“We wanted to simulate a situation when weather, traffic or other disaster made more traditional means of transportation impossible. UAS are faster to deploy, less weather-dependent and less expensive,” says Matthew Scassero, director of the UMD UAS Test Site.
The Talon 120LE is made of 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum, foam and composite materials. Scassero says the team chose a Talon 120LE because of its “payload capacity, stability and reliability.” With an endurance of greater than two hours, it can carry experimental payloads up to 2.5 lbs. The aircraft flies autonomously and lands on its belly.
Scassero believes that use of UAS technology will be critical in emergencies of the future.
“Using UAS for cargo will allow them to operate in tandem with manned aircraft to work together for these types of humanitarian missions and others, such as search and rescue,” he explains.