The Cormorant VTOL

Israel Breaks New Ground With Drones

Wounded soldiers in the field may not be able to be rescued by a helicopter, but in Israel, a drone may be called in to pick them up.

Getting wounded to a treatment facility as soon as possible is vital in lowering the number of battle-related deaths. With a new drone designed by Tactical Robotics (a subsidiary of Urban Aeronautics Ltd.), based in Yavne, Israel, it will be possible for soldiers to be rescued without risking the lives of pilots or medical personnel.

The autonomous drone named Cormorant, a single-engine Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft, has internal lift rotors enabling it to land and take off almost anywhere. The drone’s radical new design offers life-saving technologies onto the modern battlefield and emergency disaster situations.

Earlier this month, the Israel-based robotics company successfully completed its first “mission representative” demonstration for its primary customer, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). The demonstration was conducted at Megiddo Airfield in the Galilee region, according to the Tactical Robotics press release. The Cormorant drone performed a series of pre-planned flights to a specified point of delivery, offloading specialized cargo, and loading of a manikin that simulated a wounded soldier on the battlefield, which was then returned to the point of origin.

“The demonstration, a combination of cargo delivery and casualty evacuation, reflects Cormorant’s unique dual-role capability as the only UAS recognized by NATO to fulfill both cargo delivery and CasEvac missions. As such, the aircraft is designed to exceed the standard reliability and handling qualities required of a typical, tactical UAS in order to meet the requirements to safely ferry human “cargo” back from the battlefield,” Tactical Robotics said.

With the rotor arrangement on the Cormorant, some being internal to the body of the plane, it can lift up to 1,000 pounds or the weight of two soldiers and gear.

In 2017, Cormorant completed its first flight over low terrain, and, in 2018, the aircraft was recently tested for military applications by the IDF. The company expects the drone to be in full operational use by 2020, which could complement IDF soldiers in a war with Syria and or Iran.

Not everyone is sold on the idea of the Cormorant. Some of the objections come from people who think its heat signature would make it an easy target for rocket-propelled grenades or missiles.

Here is a video showing the Cormorant in action this year.