Aeromedical charity CareFlight and eVTOL aircraft developer AMSL Aero has teamed up to launch a new eVTOL air ambulance to tackle rural and regional healthcare inequality in the country.

The aircraft, called Vertiia, was officially unveiled at CareFlight’s hangar in Sydney, with support from the company’s project partners which include the University of Sydney. Speakers at the launch event included Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.

The partnership between AMSL Aero and CareFlight forms part of a $3 million Cooperative Research Centres Project grant from the federal government, for a two-year collaborative project with the University of Sydney and autonomy and sensing specialists, Mission Systems.

It could see CareFlight deploy electric flying air ambulances within a few years, which will initially be flown by CareFlight pilots. The charity is also providing expert advice and input into the aircraft design to ensure it is fit for medical purposes.

CareFlight CEO, Mick Frewen, said: “The advances in aeromedical service capability Vertiia promises will transform patient outcomes in vulnerable regional and remote communities. The safe and efficient new technology will enable CareFlight to provide the best clinical care for more Australians than has ever been possible, and importantly, get them that vital help much faster.

“The advance would supercharge CareFlight’s ability to deliver on our mission: to save lives and speed recovery and serve the community.”

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence, added: “We are incredibly excited to be collaborating with AMSL Aero on the development of Vertiia, a technology which has the potential to rapidly decarbonise air travel and improve patient transport.

“Leading the project from the University of Sydney is Associate Professor Dries Verstraete and his team, who Spence says are ‘deep experts in hydrogen fuel cell propulsion and multidisciplinary optimisation.”

Vertiia is currently being built at AMSL Aero’s aerodrome at Bankstown Airport, with test flights to take place at its facility in Narromine Airport in regional New South Wales.

It will have a top cruising speed of 300kph and travel 250km when powered by electric batteries. AMSL Aero says the aircraft can even be fuelled using hydrogen, which extends Vertiia’s total range to 800km.

Vertiia has potential applications across almost unlimited regions and industries – including one day as flying air taxis you could summon with a smartphone. However, AMSL Aero’s Co-founder and CEO Andrew Moore said the company wants to launch where the need was urgent and the impact would be profound and life-saving.

Moore, who is a qualified aeronautical engineer and pilot, has worked in aerospace leadership roles for more than two decades and founded AMSL Aero with Siobhan Lyndon. She hold degrees in law and business and has over 20 years experience in the technology, telecommunications and professional services sectors. This included a decade at Google, where she held senior leadership roles across the world.

Moore said: “Vertiia will instantly enable greater access to medical services for vulnerable remote, rural, and regional communities, offering new models of care through rapid and low-cost connectivity.

“Unlike aeromedical planes that require a runway, Vertiia will carry patients directly from any location straight to the hospital, significantly reducing the complexity and time transporting vulnerable patients. It will also be quieter and safer than helicopters, and will eventually cost as little as a car to maintain and run, transforming aeromedical transport into a far more affordable, accessible, safer, and reliable option.

“Australia’s expansive geography and low population density makes this technology especially valuable, with other crucial applications including airlifting people during bushfires, or transporting rural patients for preventative healthcare and testing, instead of waiting until the point of critical illness, injury, or risk of death.”