As legislation restricting UAVs’ flexibility and air space freedom is gradually being limited and controlled by authorities, Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft manufacturers are forced to continue insisting on how they can actually help us, to get them out of the rut of being seen as devious snitches. Although civilians are worried that drones and UAVs will be used to spy and invade their privacy, the intention behind their design is fortunately much less unsettling. Their ability to vertically take off means they can land more accurately and easily than airplanes, are able to land on obstructed terrain and have an edge on helicopters simply because of their size. In the case of the AirMule, designed for the Israeli military, and its commercial equivalent, the Cormorant, they are currently no larger than a car. The AirMule’s internal lift rotors make it even more space-efficient than a helicopter and can carry 440 kg for a distance of 300 km. These characteristics will make it ideal for rescue missions, and for military or civil agencies to deliver supplies and other provisions robotically, explained Yoeli, “providing access in and out of otherwise inaccessible environments.”
The compact unmanned VTOL aircraft, AirMule, managed its first untethered flight on the penultimate day of 2015. Tactical Robotics Ltd. saw the VTOL take off in northern Israel where Rafi Yoeli, the company’s CEO, oversaw its development. The company celebrated its achievement of category 2 under the Missile Technology Control Regime, for the export variant of the aircraft known as the Cormorant, meaning the aircraft could eventually be marketed. 2016 has been branded the year in which the ‘flying car’ will show the world what it can do.
Rafi Yoeli, CEO of Tactical Robotics Ltd.’s parent company Urban Aeronautics LTD which pioneered the concept of ‘Fancraft,’ said the test location in Mediggo has been reserved for further demonstrations, including displays of the AirMule’s cargo delivery abilities and a ‘beyond the line of sight’ flight through a forested area. The design of this vehicle is incredibly innovative: “while its shrouded rear propellers provide horizontal thrust, its vertical movement is controlled by internal rotors that can only be seen from directly above or below.” The one-tonne AirMule, (0.9 tonne to be exact) is powered by a Turbomeca Arriel 1D1 turboshaft engine that produces 730 shaft horsepower at take-off. However, Tactical Robotics Ltd. is not satisfied with this amount of power, and has signaled plans for an upgrade to a 985 shp Arriel 2 engine with a maximum speed of 100 knots when the AirMule is not carrying a useful load.
Metro Skyways is exclusively licensed to develop this technology for compact VTOL flight units, and is set to develop these technologies into “a family of safe, FAA certifiable personal and commercial, VTOL aircraft for the civil market.”
The AirMule’s parent company, Urban Aeronautics Ltd., is ecstatic about the results of a decade’s worth of internal rotor aircraft development, as is Yoeli: “it gives me great satisfaction to see that we are able to transform a dream into a safe and reliable aircraft.”The CEO concluded that this AirMule could, realistically, be the flying car we’ve all been waiting for. Admittedly, the AirMule is not the most graceful-looking Fancraft ever created (hence the name?) but for the aerospace and defense industry, military rescue and supply delivery missions, its successful flight is extremely exciting news.
Data sourced from Gizmag, Vertical and Daily Mail.