The prototype of Urban Aeronautics' Mule ducted fan unmanned aircraft system has been brought to a "light on the skids" position in the lead-up to performing its first hover tests.

"We could go to full hover, but we decided to use extra caution as this is the only prototype," says Dr Rafi Yoeli, president of the Israeli company.

While preparations for hover tests continue, Urban Aeronautics is also working on the operational mode that will be used when the Mule enters service as a combat zone supply and medical evacuation platform.

 Mule near hover - Urban Aeronautics
 © Urban Aeronautics

Yoeli says air vehicles will be transported to a safe area near the combat zone by truck, before being operated in support of ground troops. The Mule will be flown to its required landing spot in fully autonomous mode, before landing after homing in on a small transmitter/transponder to be used by field commanders.

"The flight to the combat area will be either terrain-following, or a simple high-speed dash," says Yoeli. "The Mule will have very low radar and noise signatures, and that will also add to its survivability."

Made of composite materials, the Mule is 5.9m (19.4ft) long, 2.15m wide and 1.8m high, and uses one Turbomeca Arriel-1D1 engine rated at 730shp (545kW). Yoeli says the design has a maximum speed of 100kt (185km/h) and a 6,000ft/min (30.5m/s) climb rate. Maximum take-off weight is 1,090kg (2,400lb), including 247kg of fuel and a 247kg payload.

Source: Flight International