New technology allows rapid conversion of air cargo aircraft into state-of-the-art flying medical facilities to support patients in regions impacted by pandemics, natural disasters and armed conflict.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—Knight Aerospace has finalized design and is building its first Universal Patent Module (UPM) - an airworthy and self-contained medical unit that can be loaded quickly onto cargo aircraft to treat and transport injured, ill, contaminated or contagious patients while in flight.
The modules, which have undergone years of rigorous design, are fully-equipped facilities far beyond typical medical evacuation transport. The units can be rolled onto C-130, C-17 and similar large cargo aircraft and can accommodate up to 12 patients plus medical personnel. They include a wide range of critical care capabilities, such as pressurized negative air flow to isolate highly contagious patients, telemedicine to help additional medical personnel guide complex procedures while patients are en route, refrigeration for medical and blood components and additional customizable features.
Knight Aerospace’s units can be quickly loaded and quickly transform the interior and uses of heavy cargo aircraft.
Of importance when transporting highly contagious evacuees, the units allow for the separation of the patients and air crew, thus minimizing exposure to diseases and eliminating the need for aircraft decontamination. Once they are unloaded, the self-contained units can remain fully functional while the aircraft in which they traveled are immediately put to other uses, such as transportation of supplies, military personnel or additional UPMs.
Rendering of one of the company’s specialized products—medical units that allow aircraft to function as emergency rooms / ICU’s that stabilize and treat patients as they are being evacuated.
Inside the units, a separate oxygen supply provides operating room level air quality and the ability to extend comprehensive care in an aerospace environment under a vast range of emergency scenarios, such as pandemics, humanitarian relief after a natural disaster and in conflict areas around the world.
The company’s first unit is currently being constructed at the company’s headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. It will be ready for deployment later this year. The company is also engaged with numerous interested buyers in the U.S. and across the world for the delivery of additional modules.
Knight's products convert an array of popular aircraft, including military C-17 (top) and C-130 (bottom) cargo planes, which can land in unimproved runways. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
“Our mission is focused on providing an innovative system that will save lives,” said Bianca Rhodes, Knight Aerospace President and CEO.
“In the wake of increasingly severe natural disasters, fast-spreading pandemics and other emergency scenarios around the world, there is a great deal of interest in our technology from governments, relief organizations and other parties,” she added.
A Knight Aerospace engineer is designing one of several different types of modular units that roll into cargo aircraft and quickly convert the airplane to different uses, including as medical, VIP and general passenger transport. (Courtesy Knight Aerospace)
“They realize that with an advanced system that offers an operating room quality environment inside an aircraft, the medical attention that is provided—up to and including emergency surgery—can begin the moment the patient is on board. This system revolutionizes medical air transport, and we are focused on dramatically improving outcomes as a result.”
A technician works on Knight Aerospace's first UPM at the company's operations in San Antonio, Texas. The company's facility at Port San Antonio allows Knight to be ready to deliver additional units as demand grows for state-of-the-art medical air transportation in areas of the world impacted by contagions, natural disasters and other emergencies. (Courtesy Knight Aerospace)
“The UPM provides a critical care environment that is unmatched by any other aeromedical transport capability in the world,” said Craig Manifold, DO, Knight Aerospace Chief Medical Officer. “Advanced techniques such as respiratory isolation, burn and trauma resuscitation, and life-saving respiratory support can be used while transporting critically ill or injured soldiers and civilians.”
C-17 with Knight module.
Founded in San Antonio over 30 years ago, Knight Aerospace recently relocated and is expanding its operation at Port San Antonio—the city’s 1,900-acre technology campus that allows firms like Knight to collaborate with area industries and develop innovative solutions in sectors that include aerospace, medicine, cybersecurity, robotics and others. The company now operates within a large specialized facility close to the Port’s industrial airport at Kelly Field (SKF), where Knight manufactures, tests and delivers its products.
Knight also builds and designs other comprehensive roll-on/roll-off modular and palletized systems for medical, VIP and other specialized air transport. The company also provides a wide range of Ground Support Equipment (GSE) designed for cargo aircraft including the C-130, C-17, C27J, A400M and C295 and various helicopters, allowing for increased flexibility and utilization.
In addition to the new medical units, Knight’s modular systems include a wide range and combination of passenger seating, lavatories, galleys and communications equipment that increase the functionality of cargo aircraft operated by militaries, NGOs and other users.
Knight Aerospace is a woman and minority-owned small business.