TEL AVIV (Jul. 26)
It looked like a Rube Goldberg contraption of boxes, pipes and wires topped by two rotor blades, and it may have turned out to be one.
The prototype of the new Hellfire unmanned helicopter crashed Thursday during its second test flight at Israel Aircraft Industry’s Mata plant, near Jerusalem, where it was built.
The machine was hovering at a low altitude when a fault developed in one of its systems, said IAI engineers, and it fell to the rocky terrain, damaging the rotor blades.
Such accidents happen and lessons are learned from them, the designer said.
The Hellfire was unveiled for the media earlier this week when it passed its first flight test, hovering for about two-and-a-half minutes.
Mata’s plant manager, Amnon Yishai, pronounced it “an independent bird.” It was designed to take off and land from the Israeli navy’s fast missile boats at sea.
In its final form, the drone helicopter is expected to greatly increase the navy’s range of surveillance. Eventually, it is hoped to replace the larger French-built Dolphin manned helicopters now in use.