Feeds

Israeli ducted-fan robo sky-jeep in hover trials

Not a flying car, but perhaps a flying mule

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The Israeli designers of a radical flying jeep style vertical-takeoff-and-landing "fancraft" have announced long-belated flight tests. However, the trials of the pilotless "AirMule" have so far seen the aircraft tethered and restricted to just two feet off the ground.

The AirMule in initial hover testing. Credit: Urban Aero

Surly bonds of Earth still in place for now.

"Fancraft" technology - so referred to by its developers to distinguish their creations from hovercraft, which can't actually fly - involves the use of a long-touted basic idea: that of ducted fans, essentially enclosed helicopter rotor discs.

It was once thought that ducted-fan aircraft would soon become widespread, perhaps acting as military air-jeeps able to flit about easily in urban areas or other restricted terrain found tricky by helicopters. In the event it was found that small thrust discs mean very low efficiency, leading to aircraft with unacceptably poor fuel endurance and payload even in the context of helicopters. Secondly, many decades ago when most of the tests took place, the ducted-fan machines were almost impossible to control.

Engineers at Urban Aeronautics of Israel believe they've cracked the second snag, however. Their fan ducts feature venetian-blind style arrays of tilting slats, allowing air flow to be redirected without any need to tilt the thrust disc as a normal rotorcraft must. Thus the designers believe that one of their fancraft will be able to hover accurately even in strong, gusty winds while remaining entirely stable and level.

Combining the proprietary slats with modern fly-by-wire automated controls, the Urban Aero boffins contend that their machines will not only be easy to fly, but actually able to fly themselves. The initial AirMule is a crewless design. (This may be a case of necessity being mother to invention, though, as Urban Aero lack major backing and unmanned aircraft are seen as cheaper and quicker to develop than manned ones.)

A turbine-powered, unmanned AirMule prototype was assembled last year, and Urban Aero execs told the Reg at last summer's Paris Airshow that flight tests could be expected "within two months".

In the event that expectation wasn't met, but the AirMule - according to an Urban Aero release no doubt erroneously dated next Friday - has now completed the "first phase of flight testing".

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.