Flying to the rescue

Aachen’s new mayor Sibylle Keupen looked on in amazement as a rescue drone without a pilot rose straight up into the sky. This was the starting signal for unmanned, cross-border, fully automatic search and rescue flights – “Made in Aachen”.

To be precise, the drone was actually launched remotely from Düsseldorf by NRW Transport Minister Hendrik Wüst – at the touch of a button and networked with a ground control in Aachen.

And what’s it for?
For a really important cause!

Imagine being injured in rough terrain, for example on a skiing holiday, so that you are no longer able to get away from the scene of the accident under your own power. Trees, undergrowth and masses of snow would make it extremely difficult for a conventional rescue vehicle to find and reach you. Search and rescue operations on foot, on the other hand, are often time-consuming and require a lot of personnel.

And this is exactly where the unmanned rescue drone comes into play. It enables rapid response in life-threatening situations where every second counts. The drone is equipped with a camera, flies systematically over a previously defined area and reports to rescue workers when it has found a person.

Cross-border rescue missions

The RWTH and the City of Aachen have worked out the prerequisites for the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles in cross-border rescue missions with Euregional rescue services as part of the “GrenzFlug” (“Border Flight”) project. One of the challenges was the diverging legal frameworks of the different countries. The Chair and Institute of Flight System Dynamics at the RWTH took on the technical challenges and has converted an unmanned aircraft so that it can take off and land vertically – as a so-called “tilt-wing aircraft” – and also cover large distances, even out of the controller’s range of vision.

Innovation in the skies over Aachen

The drone’s maiden flight is the product of a cooperation between the RWTH (Chair and Institute of Flight System Dynamics) and the City of Aachen as part of the “Urban Air Mobility” initiative, in which the City of Aachen with its Department of Economic Development is a member. This initiative aims to accelerate the use of innovative aviation technologies and their implementation in urban and regional environments. Perhaps you have already heard of the “RescueCopter”, another fully automated airbourne helper – also “Made in Aachen”.