February 7, 2007 One of the many problems of climbing a mountain as tall as Mount Everest, is that once you’re up there, there’s not much help available if things go wrong. Most helicopters are not designed to operate above a ceiling of about 14,000ft (4,300m), yet Base Camp on Everest is at nearly 18,000ft (5364m) and the summit is another 11,500ft (3,486m) above that. Now UAV specialist TGR Helicorp, creators of the Snark, has developed an unpiloted full-size alpine rescue helicopter; the Alpine Wasp, which will be able to operate safely and autonomously at altitudes up to and beyond 30,000ft (over 9000m). The company will be donating the Alpine Wasp to the Everest Rescue Trust after it has undergone testing and systems evaluation in the harsh mountain environment of the Mt Cook region of New Zealand during 2007. It will be capable of airlifting up to two sick or injured climbers at a time from extreme altitude, using ultra-modern composite technologies, a revolutionary diesel helicopter engine and rotor blades designed especially for maximum performance in thin air. The Everest Trust is to use the Alpine Wasp as its key technology in building and operating a self-funding unmanned rescue helicopter service for the extreme altitude regions of Nepal. This humanitarian project aims to save lives on Everest and improve the safety and emergency services in Nepal, while directly benefiting the Nepalese people.
TGR Helicorp and the Everest Trust intend to establish an alpine rescue base at Namche Bazar, a village sitting at 11,300ft (3,440m) on the approach to Mt Everest in Nepal. This base will include an aircraft hangar and rescue facilities, a prosthetics facility for the Porters and Sherpas in Nepal, and a frostbite prevention facility, providing clothing and footwear. The base will provide jobs for the local Nepalese people and all donations will be funnelled back into the community.
The Everest Rescue Trust has also launched an official website with information, regular updates and the history of the project. It will contain real-time news and information and will be made available to a global audience. This site also hosts an interactive, distance learning schools programme, which will further stimulate interest in the project and allow children the world over to learn about Nepal, Everest and the Nepalese people.
“Through innovation, design and cutting edge technology we’re going to challenge the science of aviation at extreme altitude and conquer new frontiers on Mt Everest and in Nepal,” says TGR Helicorp President Trevor Rogers, the company building the helicopter for the Trust. “We hope that the success of this project will increase the Trust’s capability to help other people all over the world. The potential for pushing the boundaries of long range, high altitude rescue is unlimited, it could change the course of modern alpine aviation history.”
“I’m excited to be a part of a project that will benefit the Nepalese people in so many ways,” said Mark Inglis, Goodwill Ambassador for the Everest Rescue Trust. “It’s terrible to see porters and Sherpas without the proper equipment in the high mountains and as well as helping the locals who have already lost limbs to frostbite, the Trust is planning to equip them properly too, free of charge. I think that’s great.”