The Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) yesterday named Near Earth Autonomy as a Humanitarian Award Finalist in the Xcellence in Mission—Humanitarian category, out of over 100 candidates.
The AUVSI Xcellence Awards honor individuals and organizations that are innovators in the uncrewed systems industry. They must have demonstrated their commitment to advancing autonomy, led and promoted the safe adoption of uncrewed systems, and developed programs that use these technologies to save lives and improve the human condition, said the Arlington, Va.-based organization.
Near Earth Autonomy said its technology allows aircraft to autonomously take off, fly, and land safely, with or without GPS. Its systems serve aerial mobility applications for partners in the commercial and defense sectors.
The company said it bridges the gap between aerospace and robotics with complete systems that improve efficiency, performance, and safety for aircraft ranging from small drones to full-size helicopters.
Drones fly in critical window
Blood loss is a leading non-age-related cause of death for both warfighters and civilians. Traditional responses to blood loss involve humans transporting supplies to the injured with trucks or helicopters, or the storage of large amounts of medical supplies. This can lead to risk, inefficiency, spoilage, and waste, noted AUVSI.
Near Earth Autonomy developed technology to bring blood and critical medical supplies to warfighters in contested, unprepared, maritime, and confined environments. The Pittsburgh-based company partnered with L3Harris to devise a safe and efficient method for just-in-time, long-distance, precise delivery.
“I’m confident that Near Earth Autonomy’s autonomous blood-delivery work will positively impact how we support forward-care providers in future military and civilian settings,” said Nathan Fisher, division chief of medical robotics and autonomous systems at the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center.
“This technology provides a lifeline in austere settings, sustaining life in the critical window between injury and when more advanced care is available,” he said in a press release.
Near Earth demonstrates deliveries
Near Earth Autonomy integrated its autonomy technology with the L3Harris FVR-90 fixed-wing, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) gas-electric hybrid aircraft. The uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) were designed for long-endurance flights of 12 to 18 hours and included temperature-regulated blood transportation containers.
In test and demonstration events, Near Earth said its system guided aircraft from take-off to hazard avoidance and safe delivery. Over 30 autonomous land-based deliveries and 10 ship deck landings have been successfully completed to date, according to the company.
“We are grateful to AUVSI for recognizing the importance of delivering critical medical supplies to rapidly treat the injured at their point of need,” stated Sanjiv Singh, CEO of Near Earth.
“The combination of our autonomy technology, fixed-wing VTOL, and temperature-regulated containers is uniquely suited for the long-distance, precise delivery of medical supplies to complex, unprepared areas,” he said. “Our entire team is motivated by the knowledge that at scale, our technology can help save countless lives.”
Near Earth's work won the 2022 Pittsburgh Technology Council AI/ML/Robotics—Innovator of the Year Award and the 2018 Howard Hughes Award recognizing outstanding improvements in fundamental helicopter technology. The company said it was a 2017 finalist for the Collier Trophy, one of the top aviation awards in the world.
Awards to come at XPONENTIAL
AUVSI will give out the AUVSI Xcellence Awards at XPONENTIAL 2023, which will be held from May 8 to 11 in Denver. Co-hosted by AUVSI and Messe Düsseldorf North America, XPONENTIAL is an annual gathering for global leaders and end users of uncrewed technologies.
“Founded on a belief that cross-pollination drives innovation, it’s the only event designed to advance the entire autonomy ecosystem,” claimed AUVSI. “Each year, the show welcomes thousands of the industry’s top minds to cultivate collaboration, spark new ideas, and this year, build the blueprint for autonomy.”
Other finalists in the Humanitarian category include ArroTech, MissionGo, The David McAntony Gibson Foundation (GlobalMedic), and UCAL Fuel Systems Unlimited.
“XPONENTIAL is all about designing a shared plan for the future of autonomy,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI. “The 2023 Xcellence Award finalists are redefining what's possible with uncrewed and robotic technology.”
AUVSI said it is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of uncrewed systems and robotics. It represents corporations and professionals from more than 60 countries involved in industry, government, and academia. AUVSI members work in the defense, civil, and commercial markets.