The Air Mule recently concluded a successful test. The Air Mule recently concluded a successful test. The Air Mule recently concluded a successful test. (Photo: Urban Aeronautics)

Amazing video: Driverless flying hovercraft takes off

Vehicle can be used to help save lives in search and rescue operations.

It's a bird! It's a plane! Nope, it's a flying hovercraft.

But there's more to this Jetsons-era vehicle than gravity-defying wizardry. This one is driverless, and the hope is that it can aid humanitarian workers in getting to difficult-to-reach places during search and rescue operations.

The hovercraft is the brainchild of Rafi Yoeli, an inventor from Israel, who was formerly a senior engineer at Boeing Aircraft. More than a decade ago, he founded a company called Urban Aeronautics to realize his dream of a driverless flying car. His vision became a reality recently when his hovercraft, known as the Air Mule, successfully completed a test at an airfield in northern Israel.

You can see the jaw-dropping feat in the video below:

Think of it as a sky ambulance. It can go 60 mph and has a range of 430 miles. And, even better, the hovercrafts will not have the same maneuverability problems as helicopters whose fast-moving rotors take up lots of space. The Air Mule, by contrast, works with ducted fans embedded into the machine.

"The reality is that we have not been designing helicopters to operate in urban environments," M.E. Rhett Flater, executive director of the American Helicopter Society, told the Associated Press. "What Rafi is doing is addressing that need to design some kind of vehicle that can operate in an urban environment, that can get close to buildings and skyscrapers, and provide some type of relief for people stranded in buildings."

The Air Mule is the brainchild of Israeli inventor Rafi Yoeli.The Air Mule is the brainchild of Israeli inventor Rafi Yoeli. (Photo: Urban Aeronautics)

With the rise in popularity of drones, autonomous devices have become de rigueur in today's skies. And with the advent of the Air Mule, the technology and its uses are brought to a whole new level.

Yoeli and his Israel-based Urban Aeronautics will now complete further tests, including a "beyond line of sight" flight which will test the hovercraft's limits. "All in all, we expect that in 2016 we will finally be able to demonstrate some of Air Mule's unique capabilities," the company said in a statement.


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Related Topics: Humanitarian