AI to Reduce Trash Swing in Helicopter Rescues
A helicopter carries a Vita Inclinata rescue kit.
Vita Inclinata picture
Artificial intelligence could soon help the military in critical helicopter rescue missions.
Colorado-based Vita Inclinata Technologies sold 15 lifesaving systems to the military in late 2021 for testing at the Aeromedical Research Laboratory in Fort Rucker, Alabama. The accessory will make emergency rescues safer and easier for soldiers, said Derek Sikora, Vita’s chief technology officer and co-founder.
The system is comprised of a rescue stretcher and a battery-powered winch that attaches to rotary-wing aircraft. The hoist uses sensors and computers running algorithms to determine the best action to reduce the spinning, swaying and rocking of the objects it is carrying.
Being lifted into the air by a helicopter is not easy, Sikora said. The rotary wing platforms – which often weigh between 15,000 and 20,000 pounds – hover above the ground and generate blasts of air that easily push and pull what is suspended below them.
Typically, “it’s that complex situation that requires that person to be on the ground, to coordinate with the person in line, and…to coordinate with the plane as well,” Sikora said. “It’s just a complexity that doesn’t need to be there.”
With Vita’s system, all a soldier has to do is flip a switch, Sikora said. It also means that the device is relatively easy for operators to train.
However, there is also a manual option for the system.
Air rescues can be dangerous. When hovering, helicopters are most at risk in contested environments, so speed and accuracy are important, Sikora explained.
“If you can reduce the amount of time an aircraft is hovering…that’s just a game-changer for how we get our fighters out of a combat situation,” he said.
The Army has worked with Vita on the system for more than three years with a cooperative research and development agreement that allowed the company to gather feedback directly from combatants, Sikora said.
Now the service wants to ensure the systems can withstand the harsh environments soldiers operate in through testing such as high-altitude and maritime testing, he said.
Army National Guard units and active duty combat aviation brigades will also evaluate the systems.
The technology is also heading overseas. The company has sold a system to a defense organization in Japan and is in talks with rescuers in Australia and Europe, Sikora said.
Topics: Air Power, Robotics and Autonomous Systems