The US Army is exploring a new battlefield role for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in medical and disaster response.
During the recently concluded Northern Strike 2023 exercise in Michigan, American soldiers used reconfigured drones to assess the vital signs of wounded soldiers from the sky.
Advanced cameras and computer systems were integrated into the drones to efficiently identify pulse and respiration rates in-flight.
According to a spokesperson for the US Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC), the reconfigured drones were tested around 10 to 50 meters (32 to 164 feet) above the casualties.
The UAVs reported the information they collected to medical personnel observing from a safe distance.
“The research team has successfully demonstrated the abilities of the system to detect casualties from the air despite heavy occlusions during simulated search and rescue missions in forested and heavy brush areas,” the spokesperson told Shepard Media.
Exploring the use of drones to identify casualties is part of the US Army’s Vision and Intelligence Systems for Medical Teaming Applications (VISTA) project.
The objective is to develop computer-vision-based software algorithms for faster detection of injuries, particularly in areas too dangerous or hazardous for a person to reach.
The spokesperson said the USAMRDC will attempt to mature the technology by conducting various tests on field exercises.
With the trials expected to be carried out later this year, the army is hoping to collect additional user experience feedback to further improve the solution.
“I have high hopes for the potential usage of this,” one of the medics who tested the drone at Northern Strike stated.