First Flight For AirMule

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AirMule, an autonomous VTOL aircraft built by Tactical Robots, made its first untethered flight on Dec. 30, in Israel, the company has announced. The aircraft is powered by internal rotors, and is designed to enable autonomous evacuation of one or two people. It also can be quickly reconfigured for a variety of other missions. Flight testing will continue, the company said, with plans for a demonstration of AirMule's cargo-delivery capability, and a beyond-the-line-of-sight flight along a path running through a forested area. “All in all, we expect that in 2016 we will finally be able to demonstrate some of AirMule's unique capabilities,” the company said.

Tactical Robots is a division of UrbanAero, which has been working on ducted-fan vehicles since at least 2003. In 2006, the company showed a mock-up of a design at the Farnborough Air Show. The company says at its website that its “long-term vision” includes developing the technology into a true flying car. But for now, the company is aiming toward utilitarian uses that would complement the work now done by helicopters, such as for the military, emergency response, police and off-shore oil rigs. 

The vehicle can carry up to 1,100 pounds and operate within a 30-mile radius, the company says, and it is designed to comply with FAA regulations for rotorcraft. A mobile supply unit of a dozen AirMules could deliver supplies to sustain 3,000 combatants, while at the same time ferrying out casualties, the company says. The vehicle also will be equipped with a rocket-deployed parachute system.

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