What kind of flying car would you expect a nation perpetually at war alert to dream up? One for offensive combat, perhaps, an autonomous flying vehicle.
In Israel’s case, surprisingly not. The Cormorant is being developed to save lives. Founder and CEO Rafi Yoeli established Urban Aeronautics in 2001 to turn his bold idea into reality—the development of a “rotorless” vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
Fifteen years in development, the Cormorant, an autonomous flying vehicle, is capable of carrying 1,000 lb of weight and traveling at 115 miles per hour. The vehicle completed its first automated test flight in November, 2016. NBC News reports that the company wants to sell the car to military outfits for $14 million starting in 2020.
VTOL is accomplished using internal rotors. VTOL allows flexibility in take-offs and landings to enable access to evacuate people from hostile environments or allow military forces secure entry. “Just imagine a dirty bomb in a city and chemical substance of something else and this vehicle can come in robotically, remotely piloted, come into a street and decontaminate an area,” Urban Aeronautics founder and CEO Rafi Yoeli told Reuters.
The Cormorant is not Urban Aeronautics’ only innovative idea. On April 17, Metro Skyways, Urban Aeronautics’ subsidiary company, announced its plans to build hydrogen-powered flying cars to compete in the civilian flying car market. The CityHawk will apply the same VTOL technology as the Cormorant, enabling the vehicle to fly below power lines and in between buildings without damaging the blades. The added benefit of hydrogen power means zero emissions, no batteries to charge, and no motor.
Metro Skyways expects the development of the CityHawk to take around five years. Initially, the company will produce a jet fueled model while working out the complexities of making the hydrogen-powered vehicle. The first versions will require a human pilot, but the ultimate goal is an autonomous flying vehicle – a driverless flying car!