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The AirMule and its ‘Cormorant’ export variant are both compact, unmanned, single engine, VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft. Tactical Robotics Ltd. Photo
On Dec. 30, Tactical Robotics Ltd.’s ‘AirMule’ VTOL Unmanned Air Vehicle successfully completed its first untethered flight at the Megiddo airfield in northern Israel.
Rafi Yoeli, CEO of Tactical Robotics Ltd.’s parent company Urban Aeronautics LTD which pioneered the concept of ‘Fancraft,’ said that the test schedule in Megiddo includes plans for a demonstration of the autonomous AirMule’s cargo delivery capability as well as a ‘beyond the line of sight’ flight along a path running through an adjacent, forested area.
“All in all, we expect that in 2016 we will finally be able to demonstrate some of AirMule’s unique capabilities.”
Yoeli added that Tactical Robotics has achieved ‘category 2’ certification for an export variant of the aircraft known as ‘Cormorant’ under the international Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR).
“This is an important element in the eventual marketing of the aircraft.”
The AirMule and its ‘Cormorant’ export variant are both compact, unmanned, single engine, VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft. This one-ton aircraft is presently powered by a single, 730 s.h.p. Turbomeca Arriel 1D1 turboshaft.
Future, production aircraft will use a more powerful Arriel 2 variant capable of providing 985 s.h.p. at takeoff. Internal lift rotors enable the AirMule to fly inside obstructed terrain where helicopters are unable to operate.
CEO RafiYoeli explained that Metro Skyways, a sister company to Tactical Robotics, is exclusively licensed to develop the technology for compact, car sized, manned VTOL aircraft. Tactical Robotics Ltd. Photo
It will also be a maritime force multiplier on vessels that are too small for a standard unmanned helicopter. The ‘Cormorant’ variant will carry a 440 kilogram useful load to a distance of 300 kilometers.
At closer ranges higher useful loads are possible. The maximum speed of Cormorant will be 100 knots and it will be able to operate at altitudes of up to 18,000 feet.
“Looking back at a decade of internal rotor VTOL aircraft development at Urban Aeronautics Ltd.,” said Yoeli, “it gives me great satisfaction to see that we are able to transform a dream into a safe and reliable aircraft that is designed to meet manned helicopters safety criteria and absolutely stands up to existing airworthiness standards.
“With close to 200 flights on the AirMule prototype we are confident that this capability can be fielded in just a few years to provide breakthrough capabilities to any military force or civil agency that needs to robotically deliver systems, supplies and other provisions in and out of otherwise inaccessible environments.”
Regarding the potential for future civil, manned applications Yoeli explained that Metro Skyways, a second subsidiary of Urban Aeronautics and sister company to Tactical Robotics, is exclusively licensed to develop the technology for compact, car sized, manned VTOL aircraft.
“Metro Skyways is at an early stage of exploring business opportunities that will develop Urban’s ‘Fancraft’ technologies into a family of safe, FAA certifiable personal and commercial, manned VTOL aircraft for the civil market.”
Asked if this is finally the flying car we’ve all been waiting for, Yoeli said, “Its capabilities certainly meet the criteria.”