November 7, 2004, Updated September 13, 2012

‘It takes on average one minute per story for a firefighter to get up with equipment. If we’re talking about 40 stories, that means the X-Hawk would be saving 40 minutes.’Up in the air – is that a helicopter? A bird?

How about flying car?

An aviation vehicle is currently being developed in Israel that can fly amid skyscrapers and park inside buildings. Its purpose is not to find that elusive parking place in New York City, but rather to become the most effective life-saving rescue feature since the ambulance.

Called the X-Hawk, the vehicle is a “rotorless” Vertical-Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle. Unlike a helicopter, the X-Hawk’s propellers are not extended, but incorporated into the body of the aircraft, enabling it to pull up close to the windows of tall buildings without danger of collision.

Those unique characteristics make the X-Hawk perfect for rescue and law enforcement work: evacuating injured people from high-rise buildings, high speed pursuit and other daring police activities. The X-Hawk is expected to be able to achieve a maximum speed of 200 KPH and to remain airborne for up to an hour and a half (like small helicopters).

Dr. Raffi Yoeli is the driving force behind the X-Hawk. Yoeli served in the Israeli Air Force as an engineer and received his PhD in Artificial Intelligence from Haifa’s Technion Institute of Technology. He began his civilian career at Israel Aircraft Industries where he was one of the heads of the aborted Lavi fighter plane project.

Yoeli established the Urban Aerodynamics company in 2001 for the purpose of developing an urban aerial vehicle designed specifically for an urban environment.

“In a regular helicopter, if you want to move left, you have to first tilt to the left. Then you have to correct the movement by tilting to the right in order to straighten out. We eliminate those movements – a very important point when you’re working in constricted air space like an urban environment,” explained Janina Frankel-Yoeli, Urban Aerodynamics Vice President of Marketing, and Raffi Yoeli’s wife.

The X-Hawk is based on all proven, off-the-shelf certified technology, meaning the engines are already Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) certified, and have been up and running in other helicopters.

“What we’ve done is integrate the existing technology together with a patented control system. It’s a vane control system, there’s rows of vanes on the top and bottom of the panel – each of the ducts looks and works like a Venetian blind. They can either turn in unison or in a few degrees in one direction or the other,” she explained.

With its ability to go where no helicopter has gone before, the X-Hawk can be a windfall for emergency rescue workers – whether they’re involved in rescue efforts from buildings, city streets, or even open highways.

“The X-Hawk can dock on the side of a building; it can be of vital use in medical response teams. Until now, you can’t use an air ambulance in the middle of a city.
If there’s an accident in downtown Manhattan, the only option is ground police, and you know what traffic there can be like,” said Frankel-Yoeli.

“Even in a situation in which there is more open space, like on a large highway, you never have aerial responders being the first to arrive. There’s always a ground crew first. They have to make sure the area is clear of wires, debris and other obstacles for landing. With the X-Hawk, the aerial medical response team can be first, saving precious minutes in which lives can be saved.”

But where the X-Hawk has really dazzled the U.S. rescue professionals who have learned about the vehicle is in its potential to rescue people from buildings.

“We have amazing potential to save people from buildings, an area that has received tremendous focus since 9/11. We had the fire chief from Washington D.C. visit us recently, and he said, ‘that’s great, but what’s more important is to get my people in to the top floors of the building.’

“He said it takes on average one minute per story for a firefighter or rescue professional to get up with equipment. If we’re talking about 40 stories, that means the X-Hawk would be saving 40 minutes. That’s a lot of lives that can be saved in 40 minutes,” said Frankel-Yoeli.

Urban Aerodynamics has produced one concept demonstrator of the new aircraft – called the City Hawk. It has completed 10 hover tests, at a height of two to three meters, with a pilot, and has registered a U.S. patent for the control system. The company is now moving forward with the development of our X-Hawk prototype vehicles.

According to Hebrew paper Yediot Aharonot, an American company that deals with aerial medical evacuations has asked to be included in the project. The X-Hawk recently showed its abilities at a conference held by the American Law Enforcement Association, including representatives from airborne police units.

“We’re in the design stages for the X-Hawk, and in the process of raising $10 million for a civil demonstrator. At the same time, we’re approaching the U.S. government and U.S. companies to become partners with us in developing the X-Hawk for military purposes,” said Frankel-Yoeli.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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