First-response times could be almost cut in half with the use of eVTOL aircraft, according to Jump Aero, which is focusing its efforts to bring an aircraft to market entirely on the emergency medical service (EMS) market. According to the California-based start-up, the average response time for an ambulance in the U.S. is currently seven minutes and 42 seconds and it believes its eVTOL will be able to cut this to four minutes.
Jump Aero was formed in January 2020 by Carl Dietrich, who was previously a founder of flying-car pioneer Terrafugia, which he sold to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. The company is convinced that EMS operations have more immediate potential to become commercially viable than the urban air taxi services being more visibly promoted by Uber and various rival eVTOL developers. Jump Aero already faces potential competition from KittyHawk’s Heaviside design and Jaunt Air Mobility’s Jambulance.
Dietrich and his fellow founders have steadfastly declined to publish any projected performance details for their as-yet-unnamed aircraft, nor will they give any indication of the timeline they envisage for type certification. They say the company has sufficient funding for the conceptual development and design work in which they are now engaged.
In the first instance, Jump expects to see its single-seat aircraft enter service beyond urban areas. “We can provide the biggest benefit in more rural areas where the [ambulance] first-response time tends to be more like 20 or 30 minutes,” Dietrich told FutureFlight. While he expects early-adopter communities to be more affluent, he is convinced that public acceptance of eVTOLs will be greatly enhanced by the realization of their potential to save lives currently lost because first aid cannot be provided quickly enough. “We want to feel the pull [for adopting eVTOL aircraft] from communities, and not just from rich individuals,” he added.
Jump Aero is in discussion with multiple first-response organizations to define mission-capability priorities. These groups range from large medical- service providers to small, local community bodies. Most are in North America, but one major European group has also shown interest.
In the U.S. at least, complex, and at times contentious, health insurance arrangements also are having to be addressed. Dietrich explained that pending legislation could clear the way for the cost of what would be categorized as “out of hospital” treatment to be covered by policies. Currently, reimbursement will cover only transportation costs associated with ambulance or helicopter trips.
“Unlike air-taxi operations, our use profile does not require a high rate of utilization,” Dietrich commented. He maintained that its first-response business model can provide an acceptable return on investment for operators even if each aircraft is used only once per day for 15 minutes.
According to Jump Aero, helicopters make effective flying ambulances for collecting patients from the scene of an accident or medical emergency, but they are not well suited to the rapid first-response role that it envisages. Not only do the larger aircraft require more ground infrastructure, Dietrich argued, but they also take around three to five minutes to spool up and a couple of minutes to shut down.
Jump Aero expects its aircraft to operate with small 18kW battery backs that can be charged via domestic power supplies. It sees the small-scale aircraft being parked right outside EMS operating bases, from which pilot-paramedics can quickly scramble for short flights to the scene of an incident.
In its discussions with EMS organizations, Jump Aero has made a case for paramedics who are not currently pilots to be sent to earn a private license and then complete type training with the manufacturer. The eVTOL would be flown under FAA Part 91 rules covering non-commercial operations and would be limited to fair-weather VFR conditions at first.
In Dietrich’s view, the main challenge for the eVTOL sector is not having the technology needed to achieve type certification, but rather being able to adequately prove the use case for the aircraft and demonstrate that the multiple associated risks can be mitigated. “In a year or two, we may need more [financial] resources, but for now we just want to bring more credibility to this space,” he concluded. “This is a far better use of an eVTOL than the air- taxi model, and I want this to become the next hot thing to invest in.”