Companies are increasingly scaling up drone technology and their associated energy and control systems in the new race to take passengers to the skies and back, but the Cormorant is the first to demonstrate full autonomy.


Nine years ago the AirMule was simply a concept – a Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) robo-taxi that could get soldiers out of dangerous battlefields without endangering a pilot or crew. Now, nine years later the AirMule, now called the Cormorant has just completed its first fully autonomous flight – a short, wobbly hop from the side of a parking lot to a space a modest distance away.



According to Urban Aeronautics, the vehicle’s Flight Control System made the decision to land too early which is why the drone wobbled at the end of the flight. Decisions by the flight controls are checked by the craft’s flight management system, like a pilot overseen by a captain. These decisions are all informed by an array of sensors which include two laser altimeters, a radar altimeter, inertial sensors, and an electro-optic payload camera. Lots of other unmanned aircraft use some combination of these sensors, but few have the unique design of the Cormorant, which puts the rotors inside the craft in order to protect the people it’s picking up at the time. And that compact, unique design is tricky to get right.


Hyundai's walking flying autonomous car might be the future of disaster relief


But if Urban Aeronautics can figure it out, the result will be a robot that can fly inside cities, weaving between buildings and hovering above any dangers on the ground below, not unlike some of the concepts that Uber are working on with the likes of Airbus and Joby.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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