Drone ambulance concept takes $20,000 FAI prize

The Fédération aéronautique internationale (FAI) has awarded the designer of an autonomous drone ambulance with the Prince Alvaro de Orleans Borbon Grant of $20,000.


Italian Engineer Vincenzo Navanteri received the honour at the FAI’s 2nd annual International Drones Conference and Expo. His drone ambulance concept is designed to transport a single person up to 150km at speeds of around 100km/h. The eight electric propellers are powered by two gas-driven micro-turbines, each with its own high-speed generator and independent gas storage. According to Navanteri, the autonomous vehicle could carry a patient weighing up to 120kg.

“This revolutionary blade-less and highly efficient micro-turbine technology is patented by us and is key to the long range of the drone,” he said. “The core of our business is the turbine that creates the electricity to power the drone. So I am happy because it means people actually understand that our technology will help move drones forward, away from simple 20-minute battery life. I am very happy because it means people understand what we are doing.”

The drone ambulance design features onboard cameras and a communications system so that medical staff can stay in contact with the patient in-flight. An integrated oxygen supply and medical monitoring equipment is also included. It’s envisaged that the drone could be used by non-pilot medical personnel with some basic training, as the vehicle would be guided by GPS coordinates. As well as the evacuation of people, Navanteri believes the drone could be used to transport emergency equipment, medicines or even emergency food stuffs.

drone ambulance

“The drone is intended mainly for rescue and first-aid missions…for urgent interventions in remote villages, or where access is temporarily difficult,” he said. “Anywhere affected by any type of disaster – earthquakes, floods, even nuclear contamination zones.”

According to the FAI, the Prince Alvaro de Orleans Borbon Grant will now be awarded every two years with the goal of supporting research and innovation focused on the advancement of sport aviation and simulated flying.