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calendar   Friday - February 06, 2015

The Flying Robo-Jeep

AirMule Gets Closer To Approval

70 years ago, the idea of a little flying vehicle that could get in and out of the most inhospitable areas was just science fiction. 60 years ago the “flying jeep” idea was tried, but ... ahem ... never got off the ground. Until about a decade ago, when the IDF realized it needed some kind of go-anywhere helicopter vehicle about the size of a pickup truck. Much R&D later, coupled with the latest advances in drones, and ta-da. Awesome. The future is now.

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It’s a helicopter that mated with a hovercraft. It’s a swing wing ducted rotor lifting body aircraft with no wings and all the rotors inside. It’s an ambulance drone. It’s a small package delivery system that can drop off 1000lb of gear at a go. It hovers. It flies at 70mph 3 miles up in the sky. It’s for real. And a good chunk of it is already FAA approved.

Flying tactical robots also are taking off in new directions. Urban Aeronautics, an Israeli company, is developing a compact, unmanned single-engine vertical take-off and landing aircraft with internal rotors called the AirMule. The features mean it can fly into obstructed areas, such as jungles or urban environments, and land on steep hillsides without concerns about rotor obstruction. As military operations move away from open-desert battlefields to more congested locations, maneuverability will become increasingly important.

AirMule can evacuate two casualties or reconfigure for other payloads. The vehicle can carry loads of 1,000 pounds or more, making it unique in its field. “There’s nothing that’s the size of a Humvee and can take off vertically with a 1,000-pound load,” said Rafi Yoeli, president and chief executive officer of Urban Aeronautics.

Making these capabilities a practical reality has been a long road. Research on the concept began about 12 years ago. In December 2013, the first fully autonomous flight took place, and a full-fledged mission demonstration is slated for some time next year.

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The AirMule ... is an unmanned flying car UAS designed by Rafi Yoeli and build by Tactical Robotics LTD., a subsidiary of Urban Aeronautics LTD. in Yavne, Israel. It will be used in search and rescue operations where it would be too dangerous or inaccessible for a helicopter, such as evacuating people from the upper stories of burning buildings, or delivering and extracting police and soldiers while very close to structures, narrow streets, and or through holes into confined spaces.
...
After the 2006 Lebanon War, the IDF realized that it needed a special vehicle that could fly unmanned behind enemy lines in order to rescue its wounded. While the helicopter is the best evacuation vehicle, it requires an area clear of trees or electricity columns in order to land without obstructing the rotor. Chances of it safely leaving a fire-heavy zone are small as it attracts all sorts of weapons fire. The advantages of a ducted fan propelled unmanned air vehicle are that it could offer the same capabilities as helicopters, but without the serious operating limitations. It could navigate in and out of creeks, city streets, next to big buildings, compact alleyways and refugee camp warrens, while the shielded rotor blades make the “Air Mule” tougher than a regular helicopter. Being unmanned, the “Air Mule” could enter situations too risky for regular helicopters. It could deliver supplies or cargo, evacuate up to two casualties from the battlefield and transferring them to a field deployed hospital for medical treatment. Some missions may require to be conducted up to hundreds of kilometers from forward operating bases (FOB) and medical care facilities with the only medical support available on scene being unit medics or fellow soldiers. The war reports have shown that moving an individual only a few hundred yards can take an hour or more.

As of 2012 and into 2014, according to NATO STO TR-HFM-184 report, the “Air Mule” remains the only available design that meets NATO and IDF requirement for an unmanned MEDEVAC and CASEVAC vehicle.

Urban Aeronautics Ltd. has patented its design as Fancraft. The Fancraft technologies are supported by 37 registered (granted) patents and 12 additional are in the process.

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The AirMule is a compact, unmanned, single engine, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft capable of evacuating two casualties or lifting significant payloads into urban or mountainous terrain. It is part of a new family of internal rotor (ducted fan) aircraft known as Fancraft™.

Urban Aeronautics is the world leader in the design of VTOL utility aircraft. These aircraft are capable of operating safely in a vast, new and significant range of missions in confined areas. This is possible via the exclusive reliance on internally mounted lift rotors.

Urban Aeronautics has taken the lead in the development of the AirMule. Flying autonomously or controlled remotely without on-board crew, the AirMule can carry a useful load of 500 kilograms and fly under the radar to land within a minimal space of 40m2 without a runway. It is designed to meet stringent US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) manned helicopter safety standards, fulfilling all airworthiness requirements for future implementation as a safe transporter of casualties from the disaster area.

Dr. Rafi Yoeli, president and chief executive officer of Urban Aeronautics, said: “Responsiveness, reliability and, above all, safety are the key requirements we have when selecting tools and components for our UAS craft. Green Hills Software has a proven track record of providing operating systems, middleware and development tools that meet these standards and so we had no hesitation in working with them.”

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What’s more, the thing isn’t even very loud. Ducting the prop blades and keeping the fans internal and behind guidance vanes keeps the noise down to the 87dB range. All that fanwork also results in a minimized heat signature. The AirMule is naturally stealthy as a side effect. Plus it’s small, and made from carbon fiber, for an even lesser radar signature. Nifty. Stick a cockpit on them and they might make a great personal urban vehicle. Aside from the $2.5 million price tag.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 02/06/2015 at 04:09 PM   
Filed Under: • High TechIsraelNeat Inventionsplanes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobiles •  
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