Aircraft

AirMule unmanned VTOL aircraft flies towards full mission demonstration

AirMule unmanned VTOL aircraft...
"Quick Robin, to the AirMule!"
"Quick Robin, to the AirMule!"
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The AirMule performs a 180-degree turn
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The AirMule performs a 180-degree turn
The AirMule, shortly after take-off
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The AirMule, shortly after take-off
"Quick Robin, to the AirMule!"
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"Quick Robin, to the AirMule!"
An artist's impression of the final version of the AirMule in use
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An artist's impression of the final version of the AirMule in use
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View gallery - 5 images

If you saw The Dark Knight Rises, then you no doubt remember the very cool-looking Batwing aircraft in which Mr. Wayne flew over the streets of Gotham. Perhaps you thought that while it was pretty impressive, there was no way that anything like it could work in real life. Well hey, guess what? The Batwing-like AirMule VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) prototype aircraft recently demonstrated its ability to fly autonomously, bringing it one step closer to carrying out a full mission demo.

The AirMule is made by Israel's Tactical Robotics Ltd., and can be flown either by remote control or using its own autonomous control system – there's no onboard human pilot. Among other things, it's intended for the evacuation of wounded personnel in war zones while under anti-aircraft fire.

In its current form, it weighs 770 kg (1,700 lb), can carry a payload of up to 640 kg (1,400 lb), has a potential top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph), and can reach a maximum altitude of 12,000 ft (3,658 m).

The AirMule, shortly after take-off
The AirMule, shortly after take-off

What makes it particularly Batwingish, however, are the internal rotor blades contained within its body (as distinct from the shrouded props at the back). This design feature should allow it to land in tight or uneven areas where the open blades of a regular helicopter could be damaged by striking objects ... objects such as people. It can presently land and take-off within an area of 40 square meters (430.5 sq ft).

The internal rotor blades are reportedly also much quieter than those of a helicopter, giving the matte-black AirMule some added stealth.

In the latest tests, announced yesterday, it autonomously performed a vertical take-off, flew to the end of a runway, then turned around on the spot and flew back to its starting point. It maintained altitude using two laser altimeters (a radar altimeter is also on the way), while maintaining positioning via a combination of GPS, an inertial navigation system, and optical reference to markers on the ground.

Plans now call for "full mission demonstrations" next year, utilizing a second prototype that is currently under construction.

A video of the tests can be seen below.

Source: Tactical Robotics Ltd.

View gallery - 5 images
17 comments
Slowburn
It does not appear to have much space for cargo.
Mack McDowell
Slowburn, i would guess it would be slung underneath, also since its a prototype this could just be a proof of concept vehicle with later versions having large storage areas...
Mel Tisdale
Range will be the crucial factor. They could hardly be regarded as consumables in these straitened times.
VirtualGathis
@Mack McDowell - This vehicle can not do underslung cargo from what I've read about it through the years. This vehicle is either the latest iteration of or direct offspring form the Urban Aeronautics X-Hawk. The X-Hawk stuff shows a better picture of how they would load injured persons or cargo into the vehicle.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_Aeronautics_X-Hawk
Tracking back it looks like Urban Aero split off the above company for military vehicles and one for civil vehicles based on the x-hawk platform so the x-hawk pictures should give a decent epresentation of the vehicle.
BigGoofyGuy
http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/airmule-uav/ Here is a site with more information. It indicates they are developing a cargo version.
This was on a documentary on flying vehicles. It showed a cargo bay that items could be put into or an injured person.
Perhaps one day it could be adapted to be a flying car?
michael_dowling
Doesn't sound much quieter than a conventional helicopter.
Danock
Total available cargo volume is 2,640 liters (93 ft^3); 1,540 liters of which are internal (770 liters in each of the main cabin compartments) and an additional 1,100 liters available in an optional belly mounted compartment.
http://www.urbanaero.com/category/airmule
Botat16
This is designed to pick up wounded on a battlefield and carry them hanging from a rope and hook? Sounds like it might scare the life out of anybody to get scooped up by a flying blender and flown a mile to an aid station. They should make it look like a teddy bear so as not to increase trauma!
the.other.will
The layout is much better for a UAV than it is for a manned aircraft. Any crew would be in the middle between the fans instead of in front with an unobstructed view of the ground. So a flying car is unlikely to come from this.
Mike Douglas
Looks like something from shadow run