Robots may not stop war, but they may someday be able to save the humans fighting it. Developed by Tactical Robotics, the Air Mule is a hovercar-like aircraft, built to be an ambulance. On December 30th, it flew autonomously, giving a wobbly glimpse at what battlefield salvation may look like later this century. Watch it take off:
And bumble forward lazily:
The Air Mule has long been in the works. In 2007, Popular Science wrote about an early version of the concept:
The idea, says 56-year-old designer Rafi Yoeli, is a vehicle that can brave dense forests, urban centers, and combat zones where choppers, with their vulnerable rotors, can’t. Yoeli, who founded Urban Aeronautics in 2001 after decades with companies like Boeing and Israeli Aerospace Industries, is currently building a prototype, aiming for a first flight in 2009. As an unmanned craft, it’s both light and able to risk enemy fire. Yoeli is also trying to make it inexpensive, and civilian and military authorities in the U.S. and elsewhere have already expressed interest in his $1.5-million concept.
Autonomous flight adds greater ability to this sky-ambulance. Designed to carry almost 1,000 pounds, the Air Mule is designed for a top speed of 60 mph, and unladen a maximum range of 430 miles. Built around ducted fans, it takes off and lands vertically.
Watch it below:
[Via Army Recognition]