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Fri, Oct 29, 2004

Israeli Firm Develops Flying Car Concept

Multiple Uses, No Exposed Rotors

It's an automobile.

It's a VTOL aircraft.

Automobile!

Aircraft!!

Wait a minute (chuckle). You're both right.

Actually, it's the X-Hawk Aerial Vehicle, billed by its Israeli designers as "rotorless." That's a bit of a misnomer -- the X-Hawk does have rotors. They're just not exposed.

Jane and George Jetson would love this idea.

"Contained rotors and compact design allow the vehicle to safely hover and/or land in congested areas without endangering either itself or the environment," says designer Urban Aeronautics on its website. The vehicle can even land in a crowd of people without compromising their safety."

But that's not even the most fascinating bit of the blurb. "The capability to sustain a stable hover while in direct contact with a wall or the side of a mountain makes possible comfortable access to virtually any location," says UA, "be it the window of a high-rise building in a major city or a remote mountain ridge in the wilderness. (Urban Aeronautics’ proprietary control system, US Patent # 6,464,166)."

Urban Aeronautics, based near Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, has designed several different variations on its sky car theme. For instance, there's a medivac variant, cargo and utility configurations -- there's even one design for high-rise rescue.

"X-Hawk, in its air ambulance configuration offers a revolutionary capacity for emergency rescue teams to reach their destination quickly, in spite of practical obstacles or complex landscapes," according to the company's statement.

Will it work? Former Israel Air Force Commander David Ivry says yes. NASA agrees.

In its utility configurations, "the vehicle will work," says Chief Scientist Dennis Bushnell at NASA's Langley facility, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal two years ago.

But will somebody buy it? Urban Aeronautics founder Raffi Yoeli says he'll have a flying prototype of the X-Hawk ready for tests next year. He anticipates FAA certification shortly thereafter.

FMI: www.urbanaero.com/Urban_Main.htm

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