SpaceWorks successfully demonstrated RED-Rescue, its new, low-cost solution in delivering life-saving food, supplies and equipment to downed or isolated Airmen. The flight test was conducted in March near Albuquerque, NM.
The U.S. Air Force had recently challenged industry to develop capabilities that provide on-demand and cost-efficient delivery of Personnel Recovery Kits (PRKs) to downed Airmen. SpaceWorks' unique solution involving aerial deployment of a large multirotor drone was subsequently selected to provide this capability. Designed to be quickly deployed at significant standoff distances, RED-Rescue delivers critical supplies and equipment with extreme precision to a stranded warfighter at their location.
Designing RED-Rescue began in early 2020 when the company won a contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop its Air-launched Drone Delivery Device (AD3). The program began with a concept evaluation study for the operational system design, then moved to detailed design for the prototype system, and finally to flight test demonstrations.
To ensure the proposed PRK delivery device was capable of meeting mission objectives, SpaceWorks planned a two-phase risk reduction effort. Phase I verified its performance in lab and bench level settings, where engineers tested individual components and functions. Phase II culminated in March's flight test that validated the descent, deceleration, aerial deployment, and final mile delivery of a PRK in the field.
For the flight test, RED-Rescue capsules were dropped by a Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter at an average altitude of 3,000 feet above ground level (AGL). Once the parachute deployed, the capsule fell and then released the drone, which was guided to deliver the PRK consisting of food rations, medical equipment, and survival gear. SpaceWorks partnered with Watts Innovations and employed a modified version of their high-performance PRISM X8 Coaxial Drone for the final mile delivery.
In the field, RED-Rescue is designed to eventually be delivered not from a helicopter but from a military aircraft at speeds up to Mach 6 (six times the speed of sound).
"Fighter pilots and other warfighters are crucial to the defense of liberty around the world. As a project, this one hit closer to the heart. We were proud to deliver on our promise, and hope this sets the stage for the next steps of employing it in the field," said Tyler Kunsa, Program Manager for the RED projects at SpaceWorks.
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