Evacuation by drone could soon appear on the readiness checklists of rescue and first responder groups worldwide. Tactical Robotics’ Cormorant ratchets up the potential for drone deployment for a wide range of military, industrial, and civilian applications.
The unmanned Cormorant is a compact, single-engine Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. Internal lift rotors give the drone the ability to land and take off almost anywhere it can find a large SUV-sized horizontal surface.
Unlike helicopters and many smaller drones with exposed rotors, the Cormorant’s six-foot rotors turn inside circular housings underneath the aircraft within the superstructure’s front and rear — hence the term “internal lift rotors.”
The lift rotors don’t swivel for horizontal travel. Instead, two smaller encased rotors are mounted vertically on either side of the drone’s tail. A single turbocharged engine powers all four rotors.
The Cormorant’s rotor arrangement minimizes the craft’s footprint. The smaller size and encased rotors allow it access to obstructed areas with wires, buildings, forests, jungles, and even mountainsides, where helicopters could never attempt to touch down.
In addition to its unique rotor placement, the Cormorant also stands out for payload capacity. Two main cabin compartments can each hold a bit more than 27 cubic feet of cargo (think medium-sized refrigerator), and an optional belly-mounted cargo hold accommodates an additional 35 cubic feet (a large refrigerator). Maximum combined cargo weight is approximately 970 pounds.
In battlefield evacuation and accident or disaster rescue, the VTOL drone has space for two casualties inside the cabin with ample room below in the belly cargo hold — if equipped — for additional supplies or materials.
According to the manufacturer, the Cormorant can transport prodigious quantities of food, water, and other needed supplies to remote or otherwise unreachable locations. With continuous round trips in a 50-mile radius, the drone could deliver more than six and a half tons of supplies (13,000-plus pounds) — enough for 3,000 people — in 24 hours.
Tactical Robotics lists unmanned inspection and monitoring flights for electrical grids, bridges, agricultural areas, and offshore oil platforms among diverse civilian applications. With optional remote-controlled mechanical arms, the Cormorant also could be used for spraying, retrieval, and other tasks.
The drone may be unique in its ability to provide “eye in the sky” photographic surveillance, and can transport cargo and equipment and perform evacuation duties.
Tactical Robotics has demonstrated the Cormorant operating via a preprogrammed course and with a human operator from a remote site.
Another useful item on the options list is a rocket-deployed parachute substantial enough to lower the drone and a full payload to safety if the engine or VTOL lift rotors fail.
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