Global Observer

This Melbourne air design could save lives

Posting in Aerospace

MELBOURNE -- The Skyway concept design reduces paramedic response times to achieve life-saving results.

MELBOURNE -- In a life or death situation, survival can depend on response time. If paramedics could respond to all Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) call-outs within 60 seconds, 95 per cent of lives would be saved.

This statistic from The Cardiac Arrest Survival Foundation (CASF) forms the premise of the futuristic-looking Skyway, a concept design of Monash University student Daniel Dobrogorsky.

The Melbourne design engineer has created Skyway, a first-response, conceptual air ambulance that responds to any medical emergency within 60 seconds.

“If patients received accelerated responses from paramedics, many lives could potentially be saved. This was an inspiring design opportunity,” Dobrogorsky says.

He cites several statistics to back this up.

According to the CASF, around 33,000 people die each year because emergency defibrillation was not administered quickly.

Alarmingly, average medical response times range from 10 to 20 minutes in the 50 to 100th percentile of patient cases. In Melbourne, this has been a topic of contention in the media.

The CASF reports that high priority emergency cases also suffer from delays as the physical limits of dispatch and transport speeds are approached.

Design engineer student Daniel Dobrogorsky.

The Skyway design is considered a world first in terms of the design’s propulsion and control configurations.

Dobrogorsky explains that currently fixed wing aircraft and helicopters are restricted to large allocated landing zones and runways.

Helicopters are capable of vertical take off and landing, however the risk of rotor collisions prevents them from landing close to their target.

They rely on a large main rotor and gyroscopic precession to generate forward movement.

In contrast, the Skyway concept uses ducted fans as a means of generating lift.

“When landing and taking off, all moving high-speed blades are enclosed in a shroud,” Dobrogorsky explains.

“This allows the aircraft to land much closer to obstacles and much closer to the patient than a helicopter," he says.

Instead of articulating a main rotor blade like a helicopter, thrust and torque are controlled over six fans to control the aircraft.

"Because of the large rotor and different speeds of the retreating and advancing blades, the blades stall and stop the helicopter moving faster at high speeds. This doesn’t happen with Skyway as it uses a pushing propeller like a normal airplane,” he says.

During forward flight, the flying vehicle uses control surfaces like a fixed wing airplane to adjust its orientation.

According to Dobrogorsky's research, Skyway's simplified design would cost as little as AUD$700,000, reaching a maximum range of 350km/hr. A fixed wing ambulance in Australia currently costs AUD$6m, (max. 550km/hr).

Dobrogorsky has calculated that to reach the patient in time Skyway must accelerate to a speed of 350km/hr. This means that minimizing drag is critical to achieve this performance.

“It uses an internal combustion engine to drive the rear pusher propeller and generate electrical energy for the six electric ducted fans. This is much cheaper than conventional turbo shaft engines found in most helicopters.”

Doborgorsky says that Skyway's 60-second response time relies on creating a network of roof top branches strategically positioned across regional areas.

“Each Skyway branch has a 6km circle of influence allowing Skyway to arrive at any position within 60 seconds,” he says.

"The pilot is also the paramedic in this case (like a MICA paramedic is the driver of his/her road vehicle). Overall this means that there can be more Skyway first responders and they can be scaled out and operated as a fleet."

Of course Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are another solution to SCA, but transporting a paramedic to the patient would ensure a better quality of care.

Dobrogorsky claims that there are precedents that exist to validate the design concept.

In terms of flight control, remote control small-scale quad rotors exist and are currently studied by academic institutions and aerospace companies such as NASA.

Dobrogorsky's has used the same core technology in his Skyway project but at a much larger scale. However, this does create some uncertainties particularly with inertia and control stability.

"As you increase the mass of the aircraft it becomes harder to control its flight," he explains.

At the moment, Skyway is only a detailed design concept, but the young designer is working towards a prototype.

Daniel Dobrogorsky's Skyway has been nominated for the coveted international James Dyson Award, along with Dean Benstead’s 02 Pursuit (an air-powered motorcycle). The winner will be announced on Thursday, 8th November.

Skyway specs. summary:

  • Range: 350km/hr maximum average horizontal velocity
  • Radius: 6km (for 60 second response time)
  • Estimated cost: $700,000 (AUD)
  • Single fuel tank range: 200km
  • Flight endurance: 60 minutes

For more information, view the concept video of Skyway.

Photos: Daniel Dobrogorsky.

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Lieu Thi Pham

Correspondent (Melbourne)

Lieu Thi Pham is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She has contributed to The Age, Associated Newspapers, Melbourne University Magazine, the Big Issue, Dazed and Confused, Indesign Group, Time Out, SOMA and Niche Media. She holds degrees from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure