Safran Helicopter Engines and Urban Aeronautics have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to study propulsion options for the latter’s Cormorant unmanned air vehicle.

Work will focus on power systems for internal rotor aircraft like the Cormorant, and will look for alternatives to the Turbomeca Arriel 1D that powers the UAV demonstrator.

“Under the agreement, Safran and Urban Aeronautics intend to pursue their co-operation through pre-series and production phases of full-scale new vertical-lift manned or unmanned vehicles, especially those intended for use in urban environments in the air-taxi, medevac and transport roles,” Safran says.

The engine manufacturer notes that it will offer its technical and industrial experience to the Cormorant programme, and more powerful engines for the UAV will be explored.

“We value the trust that Urban Aeronautics has placed in us,” says Maxime Faribault, executive vice-president of OEM sales. “Together we will study new directions for the vertical-lift market, and investigate the benefits and the feasibility of new aircraft concepts, particularly those using distributed propulsion.”

Cormorant UAV - Tactical Robotics

Urban Aeronautics

The cargo-carrying Cormorant – previously known as the AirMule – was first test flown in 2010, and has since moved on to untethered flight and the introduction of advanced flight controls and sensors.

The MoU with Safran is likely to bolster the credibility of the Cormorant development, and help transition the programme into a commercialised product.

“Partnering with a major aerospace company like Safran will bring valuable expertise and help Urban Aeronautics move from the prototype to the production phase,” Rafi Yoeli, founder and chief executive of Urban Aeronautics, says.