AirMule - A Star Wars Landspeeder By Urban Aeronautics

The AirMule, under development by Urban Aeronautics, Ltd, is a single-engine, VTOL Cargo and MedEvac vehicle. The intent is to use the AirMule as a flying - possibly remote-controlled - ambulance and cargo-hauler.

(AirMule prototype by Urban Aeronautics)

Control of the vehicle is accomplished through a company developed, four channel, redundant flight control system that relies almost entirely on inertial measurements augmented by GPS for translational position and velocity readings. Height above ground is measured by two laser altimeters. 460 channels of telemetry provide real-time data to the ground based operators, enabling them to monitor the correct operation of the Turbomeca Arriel1 730 horsepower turbo-shaft engine as well as sub-systems. These include the three company developed gearboxes, the two main lift rotors with their hydraulic pitch change mechanism and three uplink and downlink communication channels.

Results from the tests have confirmed the company’s predictions regarding power required for hover. The present hover height of approximately 60 cm (2 feet) is just outside of ground effect for this particular configuration. Based on an initial assessment of the vehicle’s available control power under actual conditions it has been demonstrated that the AirMule’s vane control system which is used for roll and yaw control is already generating in excess of 2.0 Radians/sec^2 of roll acceleration. This figure is expected to double in the future with additional improvements that are presently being implemented. The significance of these results is the vehicle’s ability to perform hover with very high precision in gusty wind conditions (currently estimated and confirmed by the recent hover tests at 50 knots for the fully developed product).

Star Wars fans of course remember with fondness in their hearts the landspeeder used by Luke Skywalker to aimlessly tool around in the wastes of Tatooine. Take a look at a model reproduction of this classic sf vehicle parked, absurdly, in suburbia, followed by a quote from the novelization of the movie by George Lucas.

(Star Wars landspeeder parked in suburbia)

For a moment Luke hesitated at leaving the machine behind -- but, he argued to himself, it's vital components were obviously shot. So he jumped into the landspeeder, causing the recently repaired repulsion floater to list alarmingly to one side until he was able to equalize weight distribution by sliding behind the controls. Maintaining its altitude slightly above the sandy ground, the light-duty transport vehicle steadied itself like a boat in a heavy sea...

From Urban Aeronautics via Danger Room.

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