‘Fifth Element’-style VTOL platform is almost ready for the market

Fancraft technology is revolutionary, and the time to release it to the market is approaching.

Urban Aeronautics – an Israeli company with interests in fancraft technology – has formed two subsidiaries.

Tactical Robotics will deal with preparing the company’s AirMule ducted fan unmanned aircraft for military missions, while Metro Skyways will use the same technology to develop a market for manned air taxis and ambulances.

These will be capable of flying even in densely built areas – just like the flying taxi driven by Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element.

“We have developed the technology fully and now we start to implement it by the two subsidiaries,” says Dr Rafi Yoeli, president of the Israeli company.

Urban is now focused on improving the VTOL AirMule’s performance. It is being tested with new propellers designed and manufactured by the Israeli company, and the flight envelope has already been improved.

Urban Aeronautics manufactured 12 composite rotor blades for the two new six-bladed rotors currently installed on the aircraft. These rotors replaced the four-bladed rotors used since early 2010.

The new rotors have the same diameter and RPM as the original four-bladed sets, but are expected to increase payload capacity by approximately 200kg. They are also much closer to the final production version than the initial rotors were.

The blade design complies with the loads specified in the US Federal Aviation Administration’s FAR 35 standard for propellers.

The Israeli company is planning to complete an automatic precision landing demonstration in the next few months.

A small, stabilised electro-optic payload has already been 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 (or alternatively a laser spot) placed at the precise landing location in the combat zone.

This auto-land feature is the final step towards enabling fully autonomous take-off to landing flightpaths, using pre-programmed routes.
Accurate positioning will be maintained en-route by an on-board inertial navigation system, in conjunction with a GPS or, alternatively, a Doppler navigation unit.

The president of Urban Aeronautics says in the next test flight the AirMule will still be tethered, but in a different way to enable more flexibility. The tether will be connected to a long cable that will run along the runway where the flight tests are performed.

Yoeli said on August 12 that a series of untethered demonstration flights are scheduled for next year.

The AirMule is without question a revolution in VTOL unmanned platforms. With its two new subsidiaries, Urban plans to create a market for this technology for both military and civil applications.


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