Australian technology company Entecho is hoping to sign a licensing and co-operative development agreement with a major aerospace manufacturer within the next two months for its Mupod unmanned air vehicle.

The Perth-based company has been developing a manned 2.7m (8.7ft)-diameter Hoverpod ducted fan vertical take-off and landing vehicle for a number of years. The smaller Mupod - measuring 600m in diameter, weighing 5kg (11lb) and with a 30min-plus endurance in electronic form - has been developed from that technology.

Following considerable interest in the UAV from large defence firms, the company's focus has recently shifted to the Mupod, says director and founder Kim Schlunke. He declines to comment on who Entecho is talking to, but discussions are believed to be close to conclusion with a number of major aerospace companies.

The Mupod made its first fully controlled flight in May and has successfully demonstrated its ability to fly in urban airspace, for example hovering near surfaces, such as buildings and vehicles, bumping into walls and perching on buildings - capabilities that have particularly attracted defence companies, says Schlunke.

"A key capability in defence applications is for a UAV to look through a window or perch on a building. It's quite a capable platform," says Schlunke. "We believe we are unique in this field," he says, adding that the large spinning motor inside the UAV provides it with the stability to handle turbulence around buildings.

The UAV has also provided "a wonderful tool for testing the Hoverpod at lower cost," he says. First flight of the Hoverpod is now planned for early next year following recent developments to improve control authority.

The Hoverpod will fly 5ft above the ground, with lift provided by fans that draw in air from above and pump it out below the vehicle's flow-vectoring skirt. Entecho is talking to companies in the recreational market on licensing the Hoverpod. In addition, Schlunke says there is interest in larger machines from aerospace companies, for example to provide ship-to-shore transfer for up to nine people.

Source: Flight International