Emergency response and healthcare group Falck has begun working with Kitty Hawk to develop a medical support version of the Heaviside eVTOL aircraft. Denmark-based Falck aims to evaluate how the single-seat aircraft could be adapted to allow its teams to respond to emergencies more quickly, while also reducing the cost of medical flights.
California-based Kitty Hawk has built 13 Heaviside prototypes and has made more than 700 test flights, with one of the aircraft being badly damaged in an October 2019 crash caused by software errors. The company remains secretive about the development timeline for the long-running program and when the aircraft might be ready to enter service.
In October 2020, Falck said it intends to start using eVTOL aircraft to carry paramedics to accident scenes by 2025. The company already employs drones to support its worldwide operations and is now evaluating new manned aircraft that it feels have the most potential to improve its response to medical emergencies, fires, and other incidents.
Falck has been in talks since last year over a partnership with Kitty Hawk, which also jointly owns eVTOL start-up Wisk with Boeing. Several eVTOL developers, including Germany’s Volocopter, China’s EHang, Israel's Urban Aeronautics, and Jaunt Air Mobility and Jump Aero in the U.S., plan to offer versions of their aircraft to support emergency response work.
Since 2018, Falck has been involved in a project called HealthDrones, which is evaluating how unmanned aircraft can be used to carry emergency supplies, such as blood samples and medical equipment. The work has received financial support from the Innovation Fund Denmark and also involves autonomous vehicle developer Holo, unmanned air traffic management specialist Unifly, digital services company SA Group, Odense University Hospital, and the University of Southern Denmark. The project is due to continue through the end of 2022.
Falck intends to start eVTOL aircraft operations in Europe first but also expects to take the same approach in the U.S market. “The agreement with Kitty Hawk takes us to the next level in our commitment to integrate eVTOL aircraft into our ambulance operations,” said Falck CEO Jakob Riis. “Kitty Hawk brings the technology, while we at Falck contribute with our ambulance service area as a use case.”