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UAV Used For High Altitude Platform In Mobile Robotic Telesurgery Test

Image credit: AeroVironment
by Staff Writers
Monrovia CA (SPX) Aug 02, 2006
AeroVironment announced Tuesday that a team of military and surgical experts successfully completed the first High Altitude Platforms for Mobile Robotic Telesurgery test last month.

Telesurgery is a new medical procedure in which a surgeon performs operations on patients hundreds of miles away using a surgical robot, advanced computer technology, and a high bandwidth telecommunications pathway.

The HAPsMRT model - developed by the U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Washington - uses an unmanned aircraft system, such as AV's Puma small UAS used in this proof-of-concept test, as the communications link connecting the surgeon to the advanced robot.

Timothy Broderick, the Director of the Advanced Center for Telemedicine and Surgical Innovation at UC, led the two-day test, which took place in part at AV's UAS flight-testing location, an undeveloped area in Southern California surrounded by hills and plains that simulates a battlefield or remote environment.

During the first day of the test, a simulated patient and the robot were situated at AV's flight test location. Broderick manned the surgical robot control console and operated on the simulated patient using real-time streaming video fed into the console via AV's Puma UAS, which was flying above the area.

The data traveled a total round trip distance of nearly 3 miles.

For the second part of the test, Broderick traveled to the University of Washington to operate the surgical robot at AV's flight test location from behind a surgical robot control console in Seattle, approximately 1,100 miles away, again using AV's Puma to provide the "last tactical mile" communications link.

The surgical robot was stationed at AV's remote flight test location, approximately 1.2 miles from AV's UAS facility. Surgery video was successfully streamed over the World Wide Web using a 5 megabyte access point carried aloft by Puma, which acted as the communication bridge.

"Our real-time, high-speed communications unmanned aircraft systems eliminate relay lag, saving crucial time for remote surgeons who will someday perform life-saving procedures in the middle of a battlefield," said John Grabowsky, vice president and general manager of AV's unmanned aircraft systems group.

"Mobile Robotic Surgery also could have applications in non-battlefield environments such as remote towns where major surgical centers are located at great distances or where a hospital has been incapacitated due to storms or other causes," Grabowsky added.

He said the company's Global Observer, a high-altitude, long-endurance UAS platform, would serve as the ideal UAS for HAPsMRT. Last year, the Global Observer prototype successfully completed the first liquid-hydrogen UAS flight. It currently is under development.

The Global Observer persistent platform is designed to provide numerous high value mission capabilities, including communications relay and remote sensing payloads for military or commercial customers.

Some examples include: - global, near-space loitering capability for defense and homeland security missions; - low-cost, rapidly deployable telecommunications infrastructure and GPS augmentation; - hurricane/storm tracking, weather monitoring, wildfire detection, and sustained support for relief operations, and - aerial imaging/mapping for commercial and environmental monitoring, agriculture crop management and harvesting optimization.

In 2002 AV demonstrated these capabilities successfully using its high altitude test platform, Pathfinder-Plus, which transmitted several hours of next-generation mobile voice, data, and video services to multiple handheld devices on the ground.

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Washington (UPI) Aug 01, 2006
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