AgustaWestland last month received the 2014 American Helicopter Museum and Education Center’s achievement award for “advancements in rotary-wing technologies,” based on the Project Zero tiltrotor demonstrator program. Dr. James Wang, the manufacturer’s research-and-development vice president, accepted the award. Led by Wang, the Project Zero team designed, built and flew a 2,200-pound, all-electric vertical lift aircraft in six months. A few flights took place in 2011-2012.
Consumer electronics manufacturers, former toy and hobby suppliers, research university spinoffs and major aerospace companies are among the entities vying for a share of the simmering commercial market for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) generally weighing less than 20 pounds. They are advancing numerous fixed- and rotary-wing designs, some of which were displayed at the Unmanned Systems 2014 conference in May and others elsewhere. Following is a description of some, although by no means all, of the recent showings:
Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has now awarded prime contracts to all four participating companies to begin Phase 1 development for the agency’s VTOL X-Plane program. Boeing and Karem Aircraft received contracts this week, to join Aurora Flight Sciences and Sikorsky. While all four have submitted proposals for unmanned vehicles, the technology that is to be developed has equal application to manned VTOL aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works advanced development unit is building an unmanned vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) air vehicle under a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program to demonstrate a cargo UAV capable of carrying interchangeable mission payloads.
France’s DGA defense procurement agency, the French navy and systems integrator DCNS proved the “functional integration” of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with a naval ship’s combat system for the first time in Europe, according to DCNS. Following sea trials in mid-December, the DGA issued a permit to DCNS to fly the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 aircraft used in the testing, the company said.
Bell Boeing, the joint venture that produces the V-22 and MV-22 tiltrotor for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, announced that it had successfully demonstrated the capability of that aircraft to serve as an aerial refueling tanker in trials with F/A-18C/D fighters. The test V-22 used a retractable refueling drogue. Bell Boeing has been promoting the V-22 for other roles, including that of the Greyhound COD resupply mission for aircraft carriers.
Sikorsky Aircraft is developing a set of hardware and software capabilities to support autonomous flight of unmanned or optionally piloted vertical-lift aircraft. Executives said the goal is to deliver an order of magnitude improvement in the safety and reliability of unmanned aircraft, which experience losses at a rate of once every 1,000 flight hours.
Contract negotiations between the U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and AVX Helicopter, Bell Helicopter and the Sikorsky/Boeing team–the potential Phase I vendors for the joint multi-role technology demonstrator (JMR-TD)–are nearing completion. Announcement of the awards for a new U.S. Army medium helicopter are planned for September, according to an Army spokesman.
The Camcopter S-100 unmanned air system (UAS) by Austria’s Schiebel (Hall 4 A40) has proved its efficient maritime capability repeatedly since the Gowind class L’Adroit offshore patrol vessel was made available to the French Navy in 2011. Schiebel, learning from the experience, says it is now working with sensor manufacturers to integrate maritime radar, electronic support measures (ESM) and EO/IR sensors into the S-100 system. This will for the first time provide maritime commanders with an organic, persistent, ISR capability for a UAS in this class.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is soliciting proposals from industry for a vertical takeoff and landing experimental aircraft (VTOL X-plane) that would demonstrate “radical” improvements over the current state of VTOL flight. In late February, Darpa issued a broad agency announcement seeking proposals by May 1.
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