Photo courtesy of Urban Aeronautics, Ltd.
An Israeli company’s AirMule unmanned lift-fan demonstrator has made its first untethered, autonomous flight, the manufacturer reported.
The single-engine, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) prototype made the untethered flight Dec. 30 at Megiddo Airfield, about 50 nm east-northeast of Urban Aeronautics’ headquarters on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv in Yavne. The flight was delayed several months to permit repairs of damage from a ground incident with the demonstrator, said the company, adding that it upgraded some aircraft systems during the delay.
The AirMule uses two internal rotors, fore and aft of the cabin, which will be augmented by two smaller, ducted, tail-mounted fans. Urban Aeronautics plans a 3,100-lb maximum takeoff weight aircraft with a 1,400-lb payload. The company plans to demonstrate the AirMule’s beyond-line-of-sight capabilities this year in flights over a forested area near the test airfield.
Urban Aeronautics’ Tactical Robotics Ltd. subsidiary is marketing the unmanned aircraft to military and homeland security customers. Urban Aeronautics founder Rafi Yoeli has been developing his “fancraft” concept since at least 2003, and in 2006 the company partnered with Bell Helicopter
to market to U.S. government customers. But Bell pulled out of the project in about 2010.
Tactical Robotics said it has achieved Category 2 certification for an export variant of the AirMule (the Cormorant) under the multilateral Missile Technology Control Regime non-proliferation pact, which it said is an important element in the eventual marketing of the aircraft.