IAI develops drone to evacuate wounded soldiers remotely

Aerospace firm presents its Air Hopper unmanned vehicle to senior officials in Israel’s defense industry and the IDF

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI) Air Hopper is  an unmanned vehicle that enables the evacuation of wounded soldiers (Courtesy)
Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI) Air Hopper is an unmanned vehicle that enables the evacuation of wounded soldiers (Courtesy)

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the nation’s largest aerospace and defense company, said on Monday that it has expanded the capabilities of its unmanned vehicles, which are now able to carry wounded soldiers away from battlefields and bring supplies to isolated troops in the field – all through remote maneuvering.

The company said that it presented its Air Hopper system to senior officials of Israel’s defense industry and the IDF.

The demonstration of the recently developed Air Hopper covered two scenarios — one simulating carrying a seriously wounded soldier to an extraction point for life-saving treatment, with airborne monitoring of vital signs and sending real-time updates to the ground. The second scenario simulated carrying logistical supplies to an isolated force at the front line, which could not be accessed otherwise without risking more troops, IAI said in a statement. Both demonstrations were carried out successfully, IAI said.

The model of the Air Hopper takes inspiration from a small, manned helicopter. But it is unmanned. It can carry from 100 to 180 kilograms (220-400 pounds), depending on the model, and can fly for two hours at a speed of up to 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour.

The Air Hopper runs on an internal combustion engine which uses ordinary, 95-octane fuel, and its price “is considerably lower” than that of a manned transport helicopter, IAI said, allowing for forces to acquire a number of them for evacuation or logistical purposes while “significantly mitigating the risk to human lives.”

The Air Hopper will enable forces to transport vital logistic equipment to the battlefield during warfare while preventing the loss of lives and minimizing the risks faced by logistic convoys from roadside explosives, ambushes or anti-tank weapons, IAI said.

Operators using the autonomous systems supervise the execution of the mission and the convoy’s vehicles in real time from a safe area outside the threat range of the battlefield, the statement said.

The system can work day or night, in tough field conditions and in any climate, the IAI said, and includes remote operational capabilities like vehicle control, real-time planning and updating of routes and behavior, reacting to current conditions based on receipt of mission data.

Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Air Hopper, an unmanned vehicle, in action (Courtesy)

The proof of concept to Israeli officials is “an important milestone for IAI in the world of unmanned vehicles, developing the future battlefield and in offering optimal unmanned operational solutions that minimize the risk to human lives as much as possible,” said Shaul Shahar, corporate VP & general manager, IAI Military Aircraft Group. “I believe these developments will open many doors for us in local and global markets, military and civilian alike.”

IAI develops and manufactures advanced systems for air, space, sea, land, cyber and homeland security. Since 1953, the company has provided technology solutions to government and commercial customers worldwide including satellites, missiles, weapon systems and munitions, unmanned and robotic systems, and radar.

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