First, on a sad note, we are deeply saddened by the passing of the beloved Chairman of our Board of Directors, Ovadia Harari. During his tenure at UrbanAero, Ovadia has made a significant contribution to the company as a whole and each of the team members individually. For nearly 40 years he has been one of the pillars of the Israeli aerospace community having overseen virtually every major aircraft design project at Israel Aerospace Industries beginning with the Lavi fighter and including IAI's business jets and pioneering unmanned aircraft. We are honored by his participation in our work and will miss him dearly.
On the technical side, we are nearing the completion of our systems upgrade and anticipate resumption of our flight testing in mid-September.
In parallel, capitalizing on the unique 'six degrees of freedom' capabilities of Fancraft™, we are starting to look at the implications of a maritime version of our AirMule. Shipboard landing is one of the most challenging maneuvers for rotorcraft due to the constant rocking motion of the deck. Ideally, the aircraft should mimic the motion of the deck as it approaches and meet the deck at precisely the same angle as it touches down. Due to the nature of a ship's motion at sea, this requires the ability to roll in one direction while moving in the opposite. Fancraft™ are the only aircraft with this capability which greatly facilitates VTOL shipboard landings. Perhaps more importantly, AirMule's small footprint and lack of an overhead rotor makes it possible for smaller vessels, which cannot accommodate an aircraft with a large rotor, to have an onboard aircraft. The attached figure illustrates this ability. You can also see a brief simulation of landing on a ship being developed at this time in the company’s simulator by clicking on the video below.
In addition, we have completed work on a 'hardware in the loop' (HIL) system which gives us yet one more tool in testing and advancing the reliability of the aircraft. HIL allows us to simulate, test and remedy potential technical failures of all the electronic and hydraulic systems without leaving the ground or risk to the aircraft. Future plans are for a fully automated HIL combined with a BIT (Built-In-Test) capability, which will greatly enhance the ability to operate the vehicle safely and automatically by minimally skilled future users.
Our AirMule Prototype is now ﬁnally ﬁtted with a fully functional, double redundant hydraulic system to enable uninterrupted rotor pitch control in case of a failure in one of the pressure supply lines (fed by two separate hydraulic pumps), or an actuator or any discrepancy in the feedback loops. The system has undergone full power tests in mid-March including self induced failures to verify that the automatic failure detection and consequent switch-over to the standby system is performed correctly by the on-board computers. A ﬁrst ﬂight with the upgraded system is expected soon.An additional system that was recently installed on the aircraft and will also be ﬂight tested on the upcoming series of ﬂights is a small stabilized Electro-Optic payload (D-STAMP by Controp Ltd.). The EO payload (see picture) is part of the AirMule's Auto-Land system, which will enable the aircraft to guide itself to a touchdown over any high contrast marker (e.g. ﬂare, reﬂector, smoke grenade) placed by the receiving party. In cases where there is no receiving party, a laser spot from an airborne designator can also be used to achieve the same result. This Auto-Land feature will be the ﬁnal step towards enabling fully autonomous ﬂight paths between the point of departure and the objective using pre-programmed routes. Accurate positioning will be maintained by an on-board INS (Inertial Navigation System), minimizing drift through additional ground velocity data either from GPS or a Doppler navigation system, whereas height above ground will be maintained via laser and/or radar altimeters. With the addition of the Auto-Land capability, the most difﬁcult part of a typical resupply / CasEvac mission (i.e. landing), will then be performed autonomously without requiring complex and currently unavailable advanced algorithms for planning the ﬁnal descent, preferred touchdown points etc. We hope to demonstrate this Auto-Land capability before the end of the year.
Finally: On March 21st Dr. Raﬁ Yoeli gave a presentation at the AUVSI conference which was held March 20-21 in Tel-Aviv. The following day we had the privilege of hosting visitors of the conference at our premises. Both the presentation at the conference and the follow-on visit by the delegates (see picture below) generated considerable interest in AirMule.
Photos: Kaleidoscope (+972) 3 5445015