BROOMFIELD, Colo. - The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) and Vita Inclinata announced that the USAARL successfully completed initial prototype flight-testing on Vita's Load Stability System Litter Attachment (LSS-LA) at Fort Rucker, in support of Cooperative Research and Development Agreement W81XWH-19-0115 and in preparation for Project Convergence 21, the military's initiative to modernize and transform its operations, which includes future hoist requirements.
The successful field tests were the culmination of months of Electromagnetic Interference and Aircraft Compatibility Testing in anechoic chambers, which ultimately concluded that Vita's LSS Litter Attachment does not interfere with aircraft electronics systems, clearing the way for the LSS-LA to be test flown under Blackhawk HH-60M and UH-60L aircraft.
The LSS-LA performed as designed in hoist insertion and extraction exercises, controlling unpredictable motion without taglines and mitigating as much risk as possible. The system successfully provided crews the ability to remotely orient or rotate the litter, as well as eliminate swing and spin with the touch of a button.
The trials included an empty litter, a litter with a mannequin, and a barrel man (hoist), under relentless rotor wash across multiple scenarios.
"USAARL flight tests medical systems used in the U.S. military medical evacuation environment to ensure safe interactions among the aircraft, medical system, aircrew, and patients," said David Jones, Director of the Enroute Care Group for USAARL. "The Army needs systems that meet military and industry rotary-wing aircraft standards to ensure safe and effective operations."
Vita was able to not only test the LSS-LA and train the personnel who would use the system, but in the process also gained invaluable feedback on ergonomic refinements, which the company is already acting upon.
"We are grateful to be rigorously testing our system with the Army MEDEVAC community, because ultimately this is the community that the solution is designed for," said Derek Sikora, Vita CTO and co-founder, who led the testing for Vita.
"We know that in the field, no two scenarios are alike. Flight crews are constantly communicating, scouting, managing complex unknowns at any given moment. We mitigate at least one unknown: we provide a stable hoist that crews can easily get down and up in a timely manner. The LSS is a tool, not a crutch," he added.
While the successful field testing was important, the company's advancements in aircraft compatibility compliance were perhaps the greatest engineering challenge and success Vita has faced. "At times, it felt like chasing ghosts -- figuring out where to look, what to try, hunting down the slightest potential interference," Sikora said. "The development teams really came together to make this happen."