The Future is Here: The AirMule!

urbanaero_muleMilitary necessity has been an engine for creation since the beginnings of recorded history. With soldiers constantly looking for new ways to kill each other, as well as save the lives of their own, one can always expect to see new and exciting technologies taking the field. And often as not, these developments have a way of trickling down and impacting society as a whole.

Take the AirMule, a compact, unmanned, single-engine vehicle that is being developed by Urban Aeronautics. Based in Israel, this company is dedicated to the creation of Vertical-Takeoff-and-Landing (VTOL) craft that utilize internal lift rotors to get in and out of tight areas, ostensibly for the purpose of supporting military personnel,  evacuating the wounded, and conducting remote reconnaissance missions.

airmuleIn an age where military forces are relying increasingly on unmanned aerial vehicles, the AirMule is designed to be used in operations that fit the 3 D’s: Dirty, Dangerous or Dull. In addition, it is controlled through remote operation and Tele-Presence, meaning the pilots who operate it do so from the safety of a base behind the front lines. The addition of this technology allows remote operators to stay safe while still feeling like they are physically on the scene.

The immediate benefits of this vehicle lie in the fact that it is able to fly at extremely low altitudes, allowing it to pass beneath enemy fields of fire and radar. At the same time, it is capable of taking off and landing in regions that are not accessible by conventional CasEvac craft, such as helicopters. This represents another concern for military planners, who are forced to contend with the fact that wars are increasingly fought against insurgents in places like cities, villages and other inaccessible environments.

The vehicle is capable of airlifting a 500 kg load, which can take the form of wounded personnel or 500 kilos of supplies. In this way, the AirMule is able to provide point to point logistic support as well as life-saving evac missions for wounded soldiers. However, it also has a number of applications for non-military use, such as assisting EMTs in rescuing injured people, delivering supplies to disaster-stricken areas, and offering assessment capabilities to companies who need to conduct inspections in potentially hazardous zones.

No telling when the AirMule will be taking the field, but in all likelihood, it won’t be more than a few years. What’s more, with the nature of military engagements changing and unmanned technology on the rise, just about every advanced military on the planet is likely to be following suit. And as always, we can expect the technology to trickle down to society as a whole, with robotic hovercraft replacing ambulances and medevac choppers within a decade’s time.

Check out the video of the AirMule concept and its field tests. It’s a few minutes long, but quite interesting:

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