The Air Mule Takes OFF

The
Urban Aeronautics Company is rounding out preparations for the coming
demonstration of its UAV “Air Mule” before the IDF high command. “Air
Mule” is designed to transport supplies to fighting forces and medevac
troops from fire-saturated battlefields. This outstanding aerial vehicle
is unmanned but capable of transporting humans.
Development
began in 2007, and it its maiden flight was held in 2009. Since then
“Air Mule” has performed several hovering flights, accumulating
approximately forty flying hours. The next tests will have it flying at
60 to 100 knots without a ground-based connecting cable (as required
until now by the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority). The Defense Ministry
is financing half the outlay of “Air Mule”’s operational technologies.
Next year Urban Aeronautics will look for a strategic partner, local or
foreign, in order to complete the project and commence industrial
production.
The
systems are being developed in close cooperation with the air force’s
chief medical officer and ground forces command. If the IDF confirms its
procurement, “Air Mule” is expected to be operational in 2015.

Although
Urban Aeronautics’ initial ideas for a UAV were civilian in nature
(flights over congested urban transportation systems), after publication
of plans to equip the US marines with UAVs capable of transporting
humans, the company’s directors decided to concentrate their efforts on
the military arena.
Dr.
Rafi Yoeli, company CEO and the guiding light behind the initiative,
believes that this type of UAV will be able to fly to designated
locations; navigate by means of a pre-fed computerized flight program
and GPS systems; and land independently. Supplies will be unloaded at
the landing site for troops waiting for the UAV. Wounded can be
harnessed to special compartments on the sides of the vehicle and then
“launched” to an evacuation point.
The
“Air mule” is compact: six meters long and two meters wide. Its
Turbomeca Ariel jet engine drives two internally enclosed propellers
that vertically lift the vehicle and cargo. Employing more than 200
flaps, the UAV’s flight path can be precisely controlled. Urban
Aeronautics is developing a number of UAVs that operate on the principle
of internally installed propellers. In addition to “Air Mule”, other
models include Centaur, designed to carry three to five passengers
without a pilot, and X-Hawk, a two-engine model intended to transport
five to eight passengers.
“We’re
now able to land and take off from any point”, says Dr. Yoeli. “For the
first time this lets us evacuate wounded from almost anywhere. Our UAV,
carries a gross weight of close to 400 kilos”. Besides civilian and
military uses, Dr. Yoeli notes the wide range of other missions where
UAVs will prove invaluable: flying above dangerous zones such as nuclear
reactors and areas contaminated by chemical plant leaks.
Urban
Aeronautics is in contact with the United States Army and the
militaries of other nations, including India and Italy, for possible
sale of the “Air Mule”. 
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