Aircraft

AirMule VTOL flies untethered for the first time

AirMule VTOL flies untethered ...
No strings attached – the AirMule flies untethered in northern Israel
No strings attached – the AirMule flies untethered in northern Israel
View 2 Images
No strings attached – the AirMule flies untethered in northern Israel
1/2
No strings attached – the AirMule flies untethered in northern Israel
Plans call for subsequent flights to demonstrate the AirMule's autonomous cargo delivery capabilities, along with its ability to fly beyond-line-of-sight along a path in a nearby wooded area
2/2
Plans call for subsequent flights to demonstrate the AirMule's autonomous cargo delivery capabilities, along with its ability to fly beyond-line-of-sight along a path in a nearby wooded area

Helicopters may be able to take off and land from places that fixed-wing airplanes can't, but those whirling exposed rotor blades still keep them out of tight spaces. That's why Israel's Tactical Robotics Ltd created the AirMule. It's an unmanned VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, which features lift rotors that are safely enclosed inside its body. Although we first heard about it two years ago, the prototype just recently made its first untethered test flight.

The AirMule can be flown either by remote control or using its own autonomous control system. It's intended (among other things) for the evacuation of wounded personnel in war zones while under anti-aircraft fire, or as a maritime support aircraft on vessels too small to accommodate a regular unmanned helicopter.

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. In the current one-ton (0.9-tonne) version, a single 730-shp (shaft horsepower) Turbomeca Arriel 1D1 turboshaft engine provides all the power. Plans call for the production version to feature a more powerful Arriel 2 engine, which will produce 985 shp at take-off.

Along with the model aimed at use by the Israeli military, a variant known as the Cormorant is being developed for other markets. It will reportedly be able to carry a payload of 440 kg (970 lb) for a distance of 300 km (186 miles), reaching a top speed of 100 knots (185 km/h or 115 mph) and a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet (5,486 m).

Plans call for subsequent flights to demonstrate the AirMule's autonomous cargo delivery capabilities, along with its ability to fly beyond-line-of-sight along a path in a nearby wooded area
Plans call for subsequent flights to demonstrate the AirMule's autonomous cargo delivery capabilities, along with its ability to fly beyond-line-of-sight along a path in a nearby wooded area

The untethered test flight took place on Dec. 30th, at the Megiddo airfield in northern Israel. Planned subsequent flights will demonstrate the AirMule's autonomous cargo delivery capabilities, along with its ability to fly beyond-line-of-sight along a path in a nearby wooded area.

Meanwhile, sister company Metro Skyways is looking into applying the technology to manned "car-sized" civilian applications. In other words, the SkyMule may ultimately pave the way for that flying car we've all been waiting for.

Source: Tactical Robotics Ltd

11 comments
mhpr262
I doubt very much this vehicle will have many civilian applications. Shrouded fans may be safer than the rotorblades of a helicopter, but they are also much more inefficient. This thing will be louder and and more maintenance intensive, and it will guzzle down way more fuel per hour, with poorer performance. Plus, if the engine fails you will drop like a stone - no autorotor function like a helicopter.
Stephen N Russell
Apps for: SAR Rescue Tourism Cargo MedEvac Lisc for others to produce.
jerryd
This is just silly. Far better is 2 simple counter rotating coaxial rotors controlled like a gyroplane by the cargo pod below. Dynamically stable no flight computer needed, just tell it which way to go and carry 3x's the payload, the real app.
TomHolzel
Engineers keep trying to create a flying saucer for everyman...
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Uniquely suitable for medivac from driveways.
WillieNAz
I think a better design for troop rescue is a doughnut shaped helicopter. The outer skin made of kevlar and titanium. Lasers light up the landing zone and it swoops down around the pinned down soldiers firing its Gatling guns at the enemy. Bay doors open on the inside of the craft which also redirect the airflow out and away causing a massive dust cloud concealing the craft. And no windows just lots of redundant cameras to view the surroundings in visual and infrared so the pilot doesn't need to wear funny vision gear on their helmet that's all done for them by the cameras on the screen in front of them. Hydraulic jump legs gets them up and out of there quickly once the doors close and the downdraft resumes. Flash bangs are the last thing the enemy sees before it takes off.
SciFi9000
@mhpr262; a simple parachute would take care of emergencies; @WillieNAz; I used to love inventing stuff like that when i was 12 too, seriously though, your ideas are pretty cool. @jerryd; I couldn't agree more, I don't understand why we persist with the rear fan to counter the torque of a single rotor when as you say, coaxial counter rotating blades eliminates the need for a tail rotor.
nubwaxer
it won't take long for unmanned vehicles of every sort will make military hardware like the f-35 obsolete. will we be able to make the ethical choices to keep robot killing machines in check or will war become even easier and detached from civilian consciousness?
ChinaMike
This would be really useful for emergency rescue of individuals, trapped in canyons and so on. As far as war casualty rescue, I could see it being used in a pinch with no other alternative. Nevertheless, great concept.
AngryPenguin
@WillieNAz: So are you going to pay for all that?