06 May 14. X-47B Programme Prepares for Summer Sea Trials. The X-47B unmanned combat air system is gearing up for shore-based flight test activities in preparation for the next round of sea trials this summer. The program’s test team will conduct various test events with the X-47B over the next few months in an effort to mature air traffic control and ground support standard operating procedures for co-use of airspace between unmanned and manned aircraft during day and nighttime operations. As the first unmanned aircraft to take off and land from a modern aircraft carrier, X-47B will once again embark on USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in the August timeframe. This time, the test team will focus on perfecting flight deck operations and integrating the X-47B with manned carrier aircraft. The proven use of these functions will allow the air vehicle to take off, land, and hold in the same pattern as manned aircraft, the next step toward UAS operations aboard aircraft carriers without disruption to normal carrier flight deck operations, he said. The Navy will conduct X-47B flight operations over the next year to mature technologies for the future Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system and refine the concept of operations to demonstrate the integration of unmanned carrier-based aircraft within the carrier environment, Duarte said. (Source: UAS VISION)
08 May 14. Northrop Grumman Corporation and Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., have agreed to work together to develop and market an innovative small, unmanned autonomous helicopter system. Called the Rotary Bat (R-Bat), the new system merges a proven airframe produced by Yamaha, with the latest autonomous control and intelligence-gathering technologies for use in urban environments for applications such as search and rescue, power line inspection and forest fire observation.
“The R-Bat joins our existing Bat family of unmanned aircraft systems [UAS] used for tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems, Northrop Grumman. “Yamaha Motor’s lineage of reliable products speaks to the strength of R-Bat as a new member of our proven unmanned system portfolio.”
The R-Bat is based on the Yamaha Motor RMAX remotely-piloted unmanned helicopter that is currently used for industrial and farming applications. With more than 2 million accumulated flight hours, the RMAX platform provides agricultural support services to more than 2.4 million acres of farmland in Japan each year.
“Yamaha Motor has produced remotely-piloted unmanned helicopters for over 25 years,” said Toshizumi Kato, president, Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. “Northrop Grumman’s merging of our efficient and affordable aircraft with their expertise in autonomous control systems will deliver a unique capability to their Bat UAS portfolio.”
07 May 14. Boeing touts operational QF-16 UAV. Boeing is working to convert F-16 fighter aircraft into fully-fledged unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for potential use by US armed forces, IHS Jane’s was told on 7 May. The company has already converted the first six of 126 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons into optionally piloted QF-16 target drones for the US Air Force (USAF), but is looking to add improved datalinks to enable the QF-16 to fly as high and as far as conventional UAVs. This, say company officials, will open the door to future roles in surveillance and close air support. Boeing could potentially convert hundreds of retired F-16s into UAVs using aircraft stored at the USAF’s ‘boneyard’ in Tuscon, Arizona, where thousands of disused airframes have lain dormant for years. Even more could potentially be converted as the air force retires its current fleets of F-16s. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has previously highlighted the potential for an aircraft like the QF-16 to provide close air support to troops in future combat – a role curren