To land a mule on a coin

Adding capabilities to a unique flying platform is one way of persuading potential investors and clients to help in making a very special design an operational system.

 

When many companies in the world are trying to develop different types of unmanned Re-supply and Medevac missions, a small Israeli company is making bold but very cautious steps forward with its design.

 

The Urban Aeronautics AirMule ducted fan prototype was recently fitted with a fully functional, double redundant hydraulic system to enable uninterrupted rotor pitch control in case of a failure in one of the pressure supply lines.

 

The Israeli company is building the second prototype and plans an automatic precision landing demonstration before the end of the year.

 

Urban Aeronautics president Dr Rafi Yoeli said that the system had undergone full power tests in mid-March, including self-induced failures to verify that the automatic failure detection and consequent switch-over to the standby system is performed correctly by the on-board computers. A first flight with the upgraded system is expected soon.

 

Yoeli said that in recent weeks, a small, stabilised Electro-Optic payload was installed on the AirMule prototype.

 

The D-STAMP payload, made by Israeli company Controp, is part of the AirMule’s Auto-Land system, which will enable the aircraft to guide itself to a touchdown over any high-contrast marker in the combat zone.

 

Yoeli said that in cases in which it will not be possible to mark the landing spot by putting a physical marker, a laser spot from an airborne designator can be used to achieve the same result.

 

This Auto-Land feature will be the final step towards enabling fully autonomous flight paths between the point of departure and the planned landing zone using pre-programmed routes.

 

Accurate positioning will be maintained by an on-board Inertial Navigation System (INS).

 

The second prototype will be powered by the Arriel -2 940 SHP engine.

This will allow a maximum takeoff weight of 3,100lb (1,407kg), an endurance of five hours and a maximum altitude of 12,000ft.

 

Yoeli added that when the second prototype is ready, a series of flights is planned in southern Israel and “potential customers will be invited to these flights”.

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