JERUSALEM: An Israeli company is developing an unmanned rotor-less helicopter that could make flying cars a reality in 15 years, said the firm’s marketing manager.
The AirMule, developed by Tactical Robotics, can take off, land and move without a pilot, using ducted fans inbuilt in the machine, Janina Frenkel-Yoeli told Xinhua.
The idea came from Dr. Rafi Yoeli, an aeronautical engineer who founded UrbanAero, the parent company of Tactical Robotics, in 2007.
After designing manned vehicles for more than 20 years, Yoeli, who also holds a PhD in artificial intelligence, decided to try a failed U.S. army project from the 1960s.
“The difference with that U.S. project is that back then they didn’t have the technology we have now,” Frenkel-Yoeli said.
“Nowadays we have lighter engines and more sophisticated computers that can make it possible, because the U.S. project, called the AirJeep, only managed to fly for 20 minutes,” she added.
Frenkel-Yoeli said the AirMule was initially designed for military use, but when Dr. Yoeli advanced the project he began to see other civilian applications, like flying ambulances.
“We call the vehicle a fan craft. It lands and takes off vertically, so there is no need to have a landing pad or an extensive surface for the helicopter to land on, which means it can fly in very constricted space, like cities, reaching areas that no other helicopters could,” she said.
The AirMule can fly for an hour at 100 knots of speed and will be manned from a central operation room using video cameras, which will make it possible to fly near a fire and extinguish it without risking lives.
Another application of the fan craft, which will be ready for its first flight test next year, is that it paves the way for flying cars.
“Once you know how to use the technology, building a flying car is easy. I’d say it could be sold worldwide in 15 years, but the main problem we will face is air regulations,” Frenkel-Yoeli said.
“It will take a long time until an air regulation for these kinds of crafts come out, so we won’t see them next year,” she said, also speaking of the sci-fi movie Back to the Future, which envisioned the year 2015 with flying cars and hoverboards.
“Regarding the hoverboards, I’m afraid to say that it contradicts the laws of physics, so we’ll never see a flying skate board, though I know that there are a lot of people out there who would love to have one, including me,” Frenkel-Yoeli said. PNA