Currently in place across all Australian alpine resorts are ski patrol services that help assist in case of emergency. Depending on the extent of the injury (for example; if the injured person needs to be kept still), they can be secured in a stretcher that is manually pulled by two ski patrollers from the front and rear. This is an effective method of evacuating the injured person from steep and rough areas of terrain, taking them to the nearest chairlift where the stretcher is attached to the chair and taken to higher ground. The injured person is then either transported to the medical centre located in the village or to the airlift pick-up point, usually by skidoo, as it is much faster and more efficient.
However, it is this method of transportation that poses the most risk to the injured person. The main concern for the transportation of an injured skier or snowboarder from the accident site to the medical centre or airlift pick-up is shock absorption from bumps and holes in the natural snow terrain. Once they are secure in this cocoon-like sleigh, they are held rigid, immobilizing the body and the injured limb. However, this will only keep them as stable as the ride of the sleigh they are on. There is little if any suspension to help absorb the impact from bumps. It takes a toll on the morale of the person if they feel they are at risk during transit to the medical centre, especially if its blowing a gale in the midst of a blizzard (a common weather condition for Mt Buller).
On a personal level, I was involved in an accident during the Victorian Inter-varsity Championships at Mount Buller in July 2011, during the boarder-cross event. I sustained what I thought was just a strained groin at the time, but after further investigation it was in fact a sheared pubic synthesis injury. I was exposed to this current system first-hand, feeling scared and worried for the stabilisation of my injury during transit on the skidoo to the Medical Centre.
The target audience for this problem are skiers and snowboarders of any age that require immediate medical response after sustaining an injury. Socioeconomic status would be medium to high income, as the sport requires quite a lot of money to implement (lift tickets, equipment, transport to the mountain).
The ability to bring a robust vehicle (acting as a condensed version of the Village Medical Centre) to the accident site, with appropriately trained staff and adequate medical supplies and instruments would not only offer a much faster response time to the injury, but would eliminate the risk of transporting the injured person over difficult terrain using the current somewhat ‘unstable’ stretcher-sleighs.
Hence, a bespoke snow-terrain ambulance is proposed.
The name is derived from Norse Mythology, ‘Skaði’, being the ancient goddess of hunting, skiing, winter and mountains, and thus having a direct reflection on the purpose of the vehicle.
The injured person is loaded onto a stretcher that folds out from the vehicle and lays flush with the ground. The stretcher is then guided along rails into the back of the vehicle via a hatch, and slid and locked in place. Inside the medical pod, a trained paramedic has ample room to treat the injury and keep the person in high spirits during the return voyage. The stretcher rests on a gyroscope, which ensures the bed remains level at all times, stopping discomfort and harmful changes in blodd pressure (particularily in the viscinity of the injury).
The vehicle articulates to improve manoeuvrability, enabling it to easily access all areas of the ski resort. It is operated by a single driver, with a driver-focused cockpit to allow maximum control of the vehicle and increased visibility (200-degree peripheral vision is afforded). The four rugged tracks are driven by dual sprockets, and are tuned with ample suspension to help ensure there is no further damage caused to the injury during transport over rough terrain. This suspension system also allows the pod to be lowered for safer loading of the injured person.
Separate armatures were used for the two bodies that connected via a common pivot located on the centre-line in the rear compartment. This enabled modelling to be done on the articulating surfaces joining the two parts. A simple bolt and hole was used to fix the two bases together during modelling of the entire vehicle, which allowed continuous surfacing across both parts of the ambulance, unifying the design in terms of sweeping lines around the corners and from the cab to the rear.
The headlights, taillights, sirens and spot light were all rapid prototyped from two grades of SLA (one opaque, and one transperant). These parts were then fitted into the clay model to ensure they would be easily inserted post painting. The clear components were sprayed with clear coat to give them a wet and crystal clear transperant aesthetic, where as the buckets and globes were painted accordinly, emphasizing the depth of the components.
Laser cutting was used to make the tracks. The sprockets and gear trains were cut form 20MM thick black acrylic, and were coupled together to form the appropriate thickness. A common central hole of 16MM diameter was used to house the axels which were cut from aluminium stock extrusion, and finally rubber tread was wrapped around the framework and glued in place.