The “AirMule” is unique in concept – but it still has to prove it can do the job

The operational need is urgent. The solutions are under development – but one, without any doubt, looks superior to the others.

A NATO report states that Urban Aeronautics’ AirMule ducted fan unmanned craft is currently the only VTOL UAV that has been specifically designed for unmanned evacuation of wounded soldiers from combat zones.

This report documents the findings of NATO Research and Technology Group 184, which was tasked with identifying safe-ride standards for patient evacuation using unmanned aerial vehicles.

The report states: “It must be noted that of all the VTOL UAVs described in this report, only one – the Israeli Urban Aeronautics’ “Air Mule” has been specifically designed for logistics and medical missions (resupply and MEDEVAC). All other VTOL UAVs are being, or have been, developed for ISTAR, utility, or cargo delivery missions.”

The report says that battlefields such as Afghanistan have increased the threat to aircraft crews and platforms conducting manned MEDEVAC and CASEVAC operations, and adds: “This increased threat places additional lives at risk – not only are the casualties at risk, but so are the evacuation crews.

“Combat operations may be conducted in a variety of environments, which are often characterized by rugged terrain and obstacles to ground vehicle transportation. “Some missions can be conducted up to hundreds of kilometers from forward operating bases and medical care facilities, with the only medical support available on scene being unit medics or fellow soldiers”

The report says that moving an individual only a few hundred yards can take an hour or more, as has clearly been shown by Israeli experience in the Lebanon War.

Development of the AirMule continues. It was 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 a second prototype and plans an automatic precision landing demonstration. 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.

Rafi Yoeli, president of Urban Aeronautics, said that in cases where it will not be possible to mark the landing spot by placing a physical marker, a laser spot from an airborne designator can also be used to achieve the same result.

So the Israeli company’s solution seems the right one. The coming years will be crucial in proving that it is working as designed under real-life conditions.

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2 Responses to The “AirMule” is unique in concept – but it still has to prove it can do the job

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    The “AirMule” is unique in concept – but it still has to prove it can do the job | Ariel View

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