Jerusalem: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) have said that they are developing three aircraft with the potential to revolutionize civilian and military aviation in the coming decade.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the three aircraft are an unmanned cargo plane, with the capability of carrying a payload of up to 30 tons; a solar-powered UAV, capable of conducting long-range surveillance; and an environmentally-friendly inter-city aircraft that will be powered by innovative fuel cells.
All three aircraft, the Post says, are being developed in conjunction with the European Union and a number of global aerospace companies. The programme, dubbed the Innovative Future Air Transport System, will see the development of an unmanned cargo plane with a 30-meter wingspan that can haul cargo up to 30 tons. According to its designers, the technology already exists to build unmanned passenger jets, but a psychological obstacle needs to be overcome before people accept being flown around without a pilot at the stick.
The designers of this unmanned cargo plane would appear to be on the right track, if a poll conducted by Boeing Co is any indication. The poll said that 70 per cent of the respondents would refuse to fly a pilotless plane, though they wouldn't mind their cargo being ferried around in a UAV. The designers of the cargo UAV point out that even though a pilot sits in the cockpit, today's passenger planes basically fly in automatic mode. The Post quotes the designers as saying that it was only a matter of time before people learnt to accept unmanned passenger planes.
The second project, the Environmentally Friendly Inter-City Aircraft powered by Fuel Cells (Enfica-FC) will see its first flight test being held in a year and a half. A 10-seater aircraft, the Enfica's fuel cells are expected to reduce noise and damage to the environment. In the future, IAI is also looking at the use of fuel cells in military aircraft.
The third aircraft under development by the IAI, is the Sun Sailor, a solar-powered UAV that weighs four kilograms and carries a small digital camera for military surveillance missions. The UAV is expected to continue flying indefinitely with the Sun as its energy source.