Israeli firm creates autonomous aircraft that goes where no helicopter dares

An autonomous aircraft the size of a car could revolutionize aviation by flying in areas currently inaccessible to aircraft, according to its Israeli developers.

January 3, 2017 14:05
1 minute read.

Autonomous aircraft that goes where no helicopter dares

Autonomous aircraft that goes where no helicopter dares


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After 15 years of development, an Israeli tech firm are optimistic of finally get their one-and-a-half tonne people-carrying drone off the ground and into the market.

The Cormorant aircraft, billed as a flying car capable of transporting 500kg of weight and traveling at 115 mph, completed its first automated solo flight in November, taking off, flying and landing by itself.

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Developers Urban Aeronautics believe the vehicle, which uses internal rotors to fly rather than helicopter propellers, will be sold to militaries to work in hostile environments from 2020 and cost $14 million.

"Just imagine a dirty bomb in a city and a chemical substance or something else and this vehicle can come in robotically, remotely piloted, come in to the street and decontaminate an area," Urban Aeronautics founder and CEO Rafi Yoeli told Reuters.

Yoeli set up the company, based in a large hanger in Yavne, central Israel, in 2001 to create the vehicle, which he says is safer than a helicopter as it can fly in between buildings and below power lines without the risk of blade strikes.

However, there is still plenty of work required before the 2020 launch to market.

The vehicle is yet to meet all Federal Aviation Administration standards and November's test also saw small issues with conflicting data sent by sensors but Yoeli said he was pleased the automation worked as required.

Janina Frankel-Yoeli, vice president marketing at Urban Aeronautics, said the Cormorant, named after an aquatic bird, marked a new phase in aviation.

"I think it's a revolution in the field of aviation because it's a new class of aircraft, it's like you had fixed wing aircraft and you could fly long distances forward, you developed helicopters and you suddenly could move vertically - and up until now there's a whole area of airspace that even helicopters couldn't go because of this enormous rotor and the hazards of it and suddenly you have a family of aircraft based on this technology that can fly in places that nothing has ever been able to fly," she said.

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