Four SAIT students have invented a flying emergency vehicle designed to rescue people from highrise buildings.
Codenamed Skywalker, the levitating contraption looks like a regular drone, only it's the size of a sedan and flies up to an altitude of 800 metres.
With a pilot at the helm, the vehicle can rescue up to six passengers at a time or deploy firefighters and their equipment to whatever floor necessary, said Nghia Vu in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.
Also known as the AERO-V, or Aerial Emergency Rescue Operation Vehicle, the project was recognized as a finalist in the Capstone Project of the Year Awards, hosted by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET).
Vu and his three team members, Jingyan Su, Thien Nguyen and Sikwon Yang, were inspired by the tragic events of 9/11 and the relative lack of innovation in rescue options over the past century, Vu said.
"People have been thinking outside the box for a long time," Vu said. "But thanks to innovators like Elon Musk driving down costs of units for electrical components, and the proliferation of household drones for stabilization control, all the technology that exists today right now is converging to the point where this becomes commercially feasible."
ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh said the idea is "long overdue."
"This ... represents a brilliant and critical solution for potentially life-threatening situations, such as what happened on September 11 almost two decades ago. It's an idea whose time has come and is long overdue," Cavanaugh said in a news release.
The vehicle can move up, down, and sideways thanks to a 200-kwH battery, more than twice the size of that used in the Tesla Model 3, Vu said.
To ensure that it could navigate dense cities, the AERO-V was designed using the limiting dimensions of a standard firetruck.
It's meant to be transported to the site by an emergency vehicle or trailer, where it can be set up and ready for operations in minutes, Vu said.
Now Vu's team just needs the financial backing to make this design a reality.
The team has been showcasing their design to investors and fabricators, and they're accepting bids for building a working prototype.
A tight-lipped Vu wouldn't reveal how much the AERO-V would cost to bring to market, but he did say this.
"It's not inexpensive, but if a fire truck for the City of Calgary costs $1.2 million to have, we can say that, commercially, you can have two of our units for the same price."