France and the UK have agreed a common military staff requirement for a future medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS, according to Gen. Denis Mercier, commander of the French Air Force. However, he cautioned that the move would not automatically result in the development by European industry of a Male UAV “because there is no money available at the moment.” European aerospace leaders have been pressing for the launch of a “Euro-Male” development program.
Early next year Cassidian’s Sagitta unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research project should reach its critical design review. A range slot has already been booked for an August 2015 first flight, and the clock is ticking as the Sagitta team prepares to meet that deadline.
Some elements of the 3m x 3m tailless flying wing are already fixed, such as the outer shell shape, and the core elements have been tested independently. Now the process of integrating the elements together is being undertaken and should be completed at the end of next year.
Two UK airports announced earlier this year the creation of a National Aeronautical Centre (NAC) for the testing of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), the first such nongovernment venture in Europe. West Wales Airport at Aberporth and Newquay Airport in Cornwall, southwest England, have linked up to jointly offer to UAS developers (Unmanned Vehicles area, Stand 645) their facilities and runways, along with access to large offshore testing areas.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted the first flight of the MQ-8C Fire Scout on October 31. The unmanned helicopter, which is based on the Bell 407, flew twice that day at the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif.
On the first flight in restricted airspace, the MQ-8C flew in a pattern around the airfield for seven minutes to validate autonomous control systems; on the second flight, it reached an altitude of 500 feet while flying in a pattern. The aircraft was operated by a combined Navy/Northrop Grumman flight-test team located at the naval base.
Delivery of a new SIGINT aircraft for the Royal Air Force has been postponed. The UK’s Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA) has not yet reviewed the safety case. The Airseeker (the RAF’s name for the U.S. Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint system) is the latest airframe that could be delayed by the MAA’s detailed scrutiny, which British contractors have privately called overzealous.
ConocoPhillips’ use of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for commercial purposes in remote Arctic airspace—an historic first—has not been perfect. The energy company confirmed that an Insitu ScanEagle it is using for airborne surveillance of the Chukchi Sea west of Alaska crashed on a second test flight. The aircraft’s first flight from the research vessel Westward Wind took place on September 12.
An MQ-1 Predator UAV supported firefighters in their efforts to control the huge California Rim Fire in August-September, according to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI). The company noted that the UAV’s more-than-24-hour endurance offered a “value-added capability” over helicopters, which ground commanders had relied on previously but are required to refuel every two hours.
Even as French aircrews began training in the U.S. on the Reaper UAS, EADS Cassidian announced that it had received a one-year extension to its support contract for the Harfang UAS that the French air force intends to replace with the American drone. Cassidian also noted that the similar Heron UAS operated by the German air force and supported by the company has logged 15,000 hours over Afghanistan. The Germans are also considering a Reaper buy as a replacement for the Israeli-origin UAVs.
India’s own medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS has experienced another delay, with first flight now expected toward the end of next year. A senior official from the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) told AIN that the Rustom-2 project has suffered from lack of access to technology for sensors and engines. “Requirements for ISR are huge in India, given threats from the border. However, Hale, micro and nano UAVs require powerful algorithms. That is where we require help,” added V.S.
With the first commercial flight of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) now accomplished, at least two other potential certification efforts are under way for unmanned aircraft that would fly at opposite extremes of the airspace if the Federal Aviation Administration approves them.