Prof. Dr. med. Peter Biberthaler
Director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Trauma Surgery, Klinik Rechts der Isar
Professor Peter Biberthaler is the head of the trauma department of the Technical University in Munich. He is a full time trauma and orthopedic surgeon with long time experience in polytrauma, multiple injuries and complex posttraumatic recon situation such as pseudarthrosis, non-unions, ax deformities, complex articular fractures etc. He is president of the trauma society ARTOF (Association for Rationale Treatment of Fracutres), has chaired many regional and national conferences and has giving many lectures concerning orthopedic and trauma education. He is currently the director of the department of trauma surgery at Klinikum rechts der Isar of the Technical University Munich/Germany.
Medical applications of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles: Potential options and challenges
In the modern era, the transport of critically ill and injured patients has evolved to include the use of airborne transportation systems, such as helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. These systems permit patients to be rapidly connected with specialized medical care in support of primary, secondary and tertiary transport missions. Airborne primary transport of patients suffering from time sensitive health conditions such as polytrauma, heart attack and stroke from the field towards qualified medical care has been shown to improve survival and reduce adverse outcomes. Airborne secondary transport of critically ill patients from one hospital to another or to an intensive care unit not only saves time but may be safer because vibration injuries due to poor road surface conditions are avoided, which is particularly important for patients with traumatic brain or spinal injuries. Airborne transport of blood, medication, material and even highly specialized doctors to smaller units has evolved as an important tertiary transport mission.
In industrialized western countries, helicopters perform the majority of these missions. However, the current use of helicopters is in jeopardy for several reasons:
- Helicopters are complex machines that are costly to purchase, operate, and maintain
- The operation of helicopters requires experienced pilots, which are in increasingly short demand due to competition from law enforcement, tourism, traffic safety, and the military.
- These factors have resulted in helicopters being shunted away from tertiary transport missions, where the need is arguably the greatest, to primary and secondary “life threatening” transport missions.
- Unlike ground ambulances, helicopter bases are typically located remote from patient care facilities because fueling stations present an unacceptable risk of fire and explosion.
These factors are likely to discourage private and public investment in helicopter-based rescue systems, which are increasingly needed.
The recent technological development of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) systems has potential to overcome these obstacles. These devices are:
- Less expensive to purchase and maintain
- Less complex to fly
- Less hazardous because they do not require hydrocarbon-based based fueling stations.
Although several unmanned aerial vehicle projects are currently underway, the potential benefits of a patient/physician eVTOL-based transportation system have yet to be explored. This gap highlights the need for a substantial research effort to develop a medical eVTOL system, not just to complement existing helicopter systems, but as an additional transportation segment towards airborne medical transportation services.