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Prospective use of unmanned aerial vehicles for military medical evacuation in future conflicts
  1. Charles Handford1,
  2. F Reeves2 and
  3. P Parker3
  1. 1 2 Medical Regiment, British Army, North Luffenham, UK
  2. 2 1 SCOTS, Specialised Infantry Battalion, Palace Barracks, British Army, Belfast, UK
  3. 3 16 Medical Regiment, Merville Barracks, British Army, Colchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Charles Handford, 2 Medical Regiment, British Army, North Luffenham, LE15 8RL, UK; charleshandford{at}


In order to continue to deliver outstanding medical care on the battlefield, the UK Defence Medical Services must continue to adapt, overcome and actively embrace change. One potential area is the rapid proliferation and sophistication of automated and remote systems such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). UAVs are already used to deliver blood to remote military locations in Afghanistan and defibrillators to those that need them in the USA and Sweden. An area of future opportunity would be to facilitate rapid evacuation of wounded personnel from high intensity, high threat, remote and austere areas directly to specialist care. Such a capability would reduce threat to human life while allowing rapid extraction of casualties from high risk or inaccessible environments straight back to Role 3 care, all of which in these situations is either not possible or carries too much risk using conventional aerial assets. The article aims to highlight a potential future capability, stimulate debate and reflection, all of which is essential for innovation and future organisational development. The potential uses and benefits of UAVs are highlighted including both the challenges and rewards of utilising UAVs for casualty evacuation. Key benefits are reduced risk to human life, cost, ability to insert into areas conventional aircraft cannot and the rapidity of transfer. Challenges are likely to be airspace management, decisions on appropriate level of care to deliver during transit and ultimately user acceptability. The article also highlights that in order to maximise our ability to exploit new technologies, all arms and trades within the military must be involved in collective research and development. Furthermore, sensible corroboration with private companies will further enhance our ability to acquire products that best serve our needs.

  • unmanned aerial vehicles
  • drone
  • evacuation
  • conflict
  • military
  • casualty
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  • Contributors All authors provided significant contribution to the article. PP championed the concept. CH and PP researched, designed and wrote the manuscript. FR provided specialist input on non-medical aspects of the manuscript.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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