If you can remember the military warplanes from the future, a.k.a. Skynet, in the movie Terminator, then it’s easy to imagine Urban Aeronautics’ AirMule – an AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle) designed “to get people out of dangerous battlefields without endangering the pilot or crew.”
Instead of the Terminator Machine being used against John Connor and the Human Resistance in the year 2029, the AirMule is being designed to support the military.
The AirMule took its first full autonomous flight this past January. Lasting a solid two minutes in the air, the flight ended with a shaky landing and Urban Aeronautics scratching their heads. According to a recent Popular Science article, the AirMule’s Flight Control System decided to land the flying vehicle earlier than planned. “Decisions by the flight controls are checked by the craft’s flight management system, like a pilot overseen by a captain.”
Similar to other AAV’s like the Ehang 184 drone, the AirMule relies on its sensors to follow a preset route and at the same time, avoid any obstacles during flight. According to Urban Aeronautics, its VTOL comes with “two laser altimeters, a radar altimeter, inertial sensors, and an electro-optic payload camera.” In other words, this is one high-tech flying machine.
Because there is a military element, Urban Aeronautics’ engineering is far superior to any commuter VTOL. According to the company’s site, the AirMule has internal rotors and a significant payload capacity. “The internal lift rotors enable the AirMule to fly inside obstructed (e.g. mountainous, wooded, urban) terrain where helicopters are unable to operate.”
According to a recent iReviews feature article, companies like Airbus, Uber and Google are jockeying for position in the hopes of introducing their self-flying taxis to the commuter market. The major issue: huge FAA regulatory, air traffic, and structural hurdles. If Urban Aeronautics sticks to their niche and at the same time, consistently improve upon their military-grade technology, they may be the first VTOL to complete a pre-planned autonomous flight mission carrying human passengers.
Armed with superior technology, the AirMule is capable of penetrating both the civilian and the military markets. Whether it’s weaving in and out of cities seamlessly avoiding skyscrapers in order to medivac civilians to the nearest hospital or evacuating the wounded from war torn country, the AirMule is a versatile machine that can only be described as impressive.
Taken from Urban Aeronautics’ website, here is a comprehensive list of AirMule’s capabilities:
• AirMule’s internal rotor design and UA’s patented Fancraft™ technologies enable AirMule to maneuver with unprecedented precision, safety and stealth in even the most constricted areas. Its minimal footprint is only slightly larger than that of a HUMVEE vehicle.
• By removing the human operator from the loop on most missions, AirMule can eliminate personnel exposure to operational hazards.
• A single AirMule is capable of ferrying 500 Kilograms of useful cargo per each 50 Kilometer radius sortie, thereby delivering approximately 6,000 Kilograms over 24 hours. A 10-12 AirMule “Mobile Supply Unit” can deliver supplies, day after day, to sustain 3,000 combatants, while at the same time ferrying back their wounded and casualties.
• Total available cargo volume is 2,640 liters (93 ft^3); 1,540 liters of which are internal (770 liters in each of the main cabin compartments) and an additional 1,100 liters available in an optional belly mounted compartment.
• AirMule can hover in place with high precision and operate in harsh weather and winds of up to 50 knots, a significant improvement over existing helicopters.
• The addition of externally mounted utility equipment can enhance the vehicle’s robotic functionality.
• AirMule is designed to the most stringent FAA design requirements for Rotorcraft, resulting in an aircraft with very high safety and reliability.
• AirMule is equipped with a rocket deployed parachute, that will safely lower the complete vehicle and its payload from almost any height in the case of an unlikely malfunction of its engine or lift rotors.