Very soon, soldiers will get help in inhospitable situations and terrains from a flying craft that does not needs a space wider than two cars placed side-by-side. They are building this in Israel and they call it the AirMule.
The craft is being developed in Israel by Tactical Robotics LTD, a subsidiary of Urban Aeronautics.
In works since 2007, the firm has succeeded in making a prototype of a vehicle that would function like a helicopter but without the need for open landing zones.
After 200 tethered flights, AirMule just had its first untethered flight on December 30 at Megiddo airfield in northern Israel.
It was called X-HAWK LE at the conception stage. Post the 2006 Lebanon War, it became apparent that there was a need for a craft that would extract soldiers in enemy territory.
The AirMule is VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft. It has rotors but they are on either side of the machine and are installed within the frame of the craft.
This means that unlike a chopper, the AirMule’s rotors do not extend out of the main body of the craft.
The powerplant that runs the rotors is a 730 HP Turbomecca Arriel 1D1 turbine. Urban Aeronautics is planning to feature a more powerful 985 HP engine.
The craft will fly at a maximum speed of 100 knots or 185 km/hr with a service ceiling of 18,000 feet. AirMule weighs around 770 kgs; the gross weight will come to around 1,400 kgs, including load.
A single AirMule is capable of ferrying 500 Kilograms of useful cargo per each 50 Kilometer radius sortie, thereby delivering approximately 6,000 Kilograms over 24 hours.
“A 10-12 AirMule “Mobile Supply Unit” can deliver supplies, day after day, to sustain 3,000 combatants, while at the same time ferrying back their wounded and casualties,” the official website describes.
The craft is obviously for military purposes – supply and medical. One significant use of the craft can be in direct combat in areas where helicopters can be easily hit down such as war zones within cities.
On its official website, Urban Aeronautics describes AirMule as capable of transformative assessment and response capabilities during nuclear, biological or chemical emergencies.
Everything about the AirMule is about stealth. It can fly low, has a unique shape, and uses a power source that gives off less radar signs.
Critical areas outside of military purpose where the AirMule can help is in the form of air ambulance and law enforcement in cities.
The reason why Urban Aeronautics has started a subsidiary called Metro Skyways hints that AirMule will see other civilian uses too.
But whether or not AirMule becomes a success will depend on factors such as reliability, cost and controls. The company is going for more tests and planning to demonstrate features of the craft sometime this year.