One of the toughest parts of war is evacuating wounded troops. While the Pentagon and NATO have been discussing the feasibility of using UAVs to fly injured troops to safety (PDF), an Israeli company is offering a new solution: high-tech plastic backpack/sling/bungee hybrids that allow troops to carry injured comrades to safety—on their backs.
Agilite Gear markets the Injured Personnel Carrier, a lightweight (0.8 lb.) high-tensile plastic cord system that straps to a wearer’s back and can hypothetically hold up to 2,000 lbs. The padded cord wraps around the injured party, who is then carried around on the back of the non-injured soldier like a human backpack. Unlike traditional war-zone rescue products, the Injured Personnel Carrier is hands-free—rescuers are able to hold weapons and other objects while returning their comrade to safety. The heavy straps also assist in lifting the injured off the ground.
The company, which just launched the carrier on the American market, is supplying (Hebrew-language link) the United States Marine Corps and Australian Special Forces with IPCs. In addition to foreign militaries, Agilite is also targeting military contractors, search-and-rescue teams, and emergency services. The carrier’s origins lie in a practice among several Israeli Defense Forces units of tying together four rifle slings to use as a backpack.
The IPC retails for $95 in single, non-bulk purchases with free shipping to the United States. Non-military purchasers for the product have also included hikers and cruise ship emergency staff who purchased it due to the ability to use in confined spaces, according to Agilite’s Elie Isaacson. Apart from the personnel carrier, most of the company’s other products are vests, backpacks, and rifle slings of various sorts.
Extracting injured troops from battlezones has been a persistent problem for the Pentagon. The military and defense contractors, who are deep in the throes of drone-mania, have been flirting with the idea of replacing medevac helicopters with unmanned drones. A variety of extraction tools are currently used for on-the-ground evacuation of injured troops, but tactical stretchers—many of which have armor or medical accessories—are most frequently used overseas. For Agilite, the big challenge will be marketing an extraction method in which the injured party is not lying down. Slinging injured troops into a "human backpack" cannot work in all situations; earning viable sales will depend on convincing troops and search-and-rescue organizations that the IPC is better than a stretcher.