The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is offering a $15,000 innovation award to anyone who can come up with a best design for a medical stretcher that can be carried into a combat zone by a single rescuer, quickly prepared to load an injured soldier and moved out of the site and into a helicopter.

The latest in a growing number of government initiated innovation challenges is hosted by InnoCentive Inc. The challenge, which was posted in late December and is open until Feb. 28, requires only a written proposal.

AFRL last year successfully used InnoCentive’s crowd-sourcing platform to find a way to stop a fleeing vehicle moving at high speed. The winner of the $25,000 award was a retired mechanical engineer from Lima, Peru, who submitted a blueprint for a small, remote-controlled, electric-powered vehicle that could position itself underneath the fleeing vehicle, open an airbag and bring it a halt. The challenge generated interest from more than 1,000 problem solvers from around the globe.

Describing the latest challenge, AFRL officials said medical stretchers commonly used today secure the patient with straps, but it takes too much time to deploy the straps in the fiery chaos of the combat field.

Officials explained that critical improvements over existing stretcher systems must include quick and simple loading of an injured combatant, ease for a single rescuer on foot to safely transport the evacuee across difficult terrain, the ability to support and stabilize the body’s vital functions, and overall simplicity of the design.

AFRL officials said they expect to prototype the winning stretcher design. The challenge so far has attracted nearly 1,000 active solvers.