Air Force would like to call a drone for crew rescue

A pretty stiff set of requirements for a USAF crew rescue vehicle, they are not too worried about the noise or method of power.

Develop and demonstrate a low cost aerial platform capable of transporting 2-4 military personnel (one in medical litter) with no onboard traditional pilot and capable of at least 100 mile radius at speeds above 100kts and taking off and landing at unprepared locations approximately 50 by 50 feet but no larger than 150 ft. for supporting combat search and rescue, personnel recovery, and special operations in the field. 

DESCRIPTION: In supporting the 2018 National Defense Strategy there is a need to deploy, survive, operate, manoeuvre, and regenerate in all domains while under attack in theatres throughout the globe. Along with operations in the Middle East, new capabilities must also support operations in the Indo-Pacific and Africa regions.

This Global Operating Model will expose the US military to operations across the world in diverse environments. These diverse environments will require operations from new isolated locations, at greater distances, requiring low-cost solutions for increasing our options for providing transport of small teams of personnel into and out of harm’s way without increasing the number of personnel at risk (the aircrew) needed to move these teams.

There have been significant advancements in Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft as well as traditional rotorcraft design that may provide solutions to the challenge. In addition, the significant private sector investment that could be leveraged for this military mission is the personal air vehicle (PAV) and urban air mobility (UAM) efforts.

These efforts have been focused on urban operations for on-demand civilian transport and have many parallel design requirements to that desired under this SBIR but with some modifications to meet the military mission.

The PAV market and infrastructure needed for full access to the US National Airspace System (NAS) is a barrier for many US based companies to compete in this sector. Collaboration between the military and US companies supporting the PAV market means the potential for early adoption of PAV technology by the military for this mission area while preserving the US industrial base. While the number of designs and potential solutions for the PAV and UAM market increase, their designs are not optimized for a military solution. Many of the PAV designs have been self-limiting to an electric-only solution or speed, weight, or range limited to fit into certain design categories as defined by the FAA for ease of fielding.

For the purpose of this effort, these limitations are not applicable and the main focus is on military utility. By providing lower cost options compared to traditional manned assets and ease of operations through autonomy, the vision is to increase the number of recovery/transport vehicles available across the battlefield and to decrease the response time needed for insertion and extraction of personnel at risk while also not increasing the number of personnel in harm’s way.

The personnel recovery/transport vehicle envisioned is highly autonomous and flown either remotely through secure data link similar to unmanned aircraft systems/remotely piloted aircraft in use by Air Force and Department of Defense (DoD), or through minimal control inputs by the person onboard and not requiring significant training.

The transport can carry a minimum of two personnel with one person potentially in a litter and needs to be accessible by the other person while in flight. Optimally the platform can carry up to four military personnel with full equipment load totalling approximately 1400 pounds.

The aircraft must be capable of performing the full mission with 1400 pounds of personnel and cargo at 4000 ft./95°F or higher at speeds above 100kts.

The minimal combat radius of 100 nautical miles (200 miles range) with a minimum of 30 minutes of reserves for emergency or divert.

The platform has the capability of operating in all theatres of operation to include desert, jungle, mountainous, and maritime (ship to shore transport). Water recovery of personnel is a desired capability but not a requirement. The platform’s signatures should be minimalized to reduce detection where able with focus on lowest acoustic audible signature when taking off and landing with a landing zone that is not presurveyed and measuring approximately 50 by 50 feet but no larger than 150 ft. Unlike the civil PAV concepts to be quiet throughout the flight and requiring all electric designs, a hybrid propulsion system with increased acoustic signatures while en route is acceptable to gain speed and range desired for the military mission.

The air vehicle should be transportable by military aircraft (preferably by C-130 or H-47) and would optimally be capable of being airdropped for staging or mission execution. Vehicles capable of being transported via a CV-22 are of interest but not required. The vehicle should be fully contained (not requiring special equipment, launch, and recovery systems) and capable of ground handling and assembly and launch by aircrew in 30 minutes. The final solution will likely be composed of a system of systems that can be tailored to application and budget.

PHASE I: Proposal must show, as appropriate to the proposed effort, technical feasibility of the underlying technology, understanding and experience in the air vehicle market, understanding and experience in air vehicle development, experience to construction, testing, and delivery of production quality air vehicles.

FEASIBILITY DOCUMENTATION: Offerors interested in submitting a Direct to Phase II proposal in response to this topic must provide documentation to substantiate that the scientific and technical merit and feasibility described has been met and describes the potential commercial applications.

The documentation provided must substantiate that the proposer has developed a preliminary understanding of the technology to be applied in their Phase II proposal to meet the objectives of this topic. Documentation should include all relevant information including, but not limited to: technical reports, test data, prototype designs/models, and performance goals/results. Read and follow all of the feasibility documentation portions of the Air Force 19.2 Instructions. The Air Force will not evaluate the offeror’s related D2P2 proposal where it determines that the offeror has failed to demonstrate the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the Phase I project. 

PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate an air vehicle platform capable of being transportable by military aircraft (preferably by C-130 or H-47), assembled in 30 minutes by ground crews, and carrying up to four military personnel with full equipment load totaling approximately 1400 pounds at 4000 ft./95°F or higher at speeds above 100kts with a minimal combat radius of 100 nautical miles (200 miles range) and 30 minutes of reserves for emergency or divert. For the Phase II effort, the aircraft may be tested manned or unmanned but must be capable of being operated onboard by a non-rated operator (no pilot training). During the Phase II effort, air drop operations will not be required. 

PHASE III: The contractor will pursue commercialization of the various technologies developed in Phase II for potential government applications. There are potential commercial applications in a wide range of diverse fields that include cargo transport operations centers, industrial systems monitoring, and security response command centers. 

REFERENCES: 1. Lascara, B., Spencer, T., DeGarmo, M., Lacher, A., Maroney, D., & Guterres, M. (2018) Urban Air Mobility Landscape Report. The MITRE Corporation. Retrieved from https://www.mitre.org/sites/default/files/publications/pr-18-0154-4-urban-air-mobility-landscape-report_0.pdf; 2. Mouton, Christopher A., Jia Xu, Endy M. Daehner, Hirokazu Miyake, C. R. Anderegg, Julia Pollak, David T. Orletsky, and Jerry M. Sollinger,. (2015) Rescuing Downed Aircrews: The Value of Time. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1106.html. Also available in print form.; 3. Mouton, Christopher A. and John P. Godges, (2016) Timelines for Reaching Injured Personnel in Africa. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1536.html. Also available in print form.; 4. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Combat Search and Rescue in Highly Contested Environments: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25156.

CONTACT(S): 

1Lt Ryan Grimes (AFRL/RQCC) 

(937) 938-4603 

[email protected] 

SBIR