11 Apr 05. Northrop Grumman Corporation has conducted the first flight of a new configuration of the U.S. Army’s RQ-5A UAV system called the Endurance Hunter (E-Hunter). Conducted March 17 at a company flight test facility near Douglas, Ariz., the flight is part of an on-going cooperative effort between Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Army to extend the range, endurance and payload capacity of the Hunter system. Northrop Grumman operated the new UAV under the control of a prototype “One System” ground control station. The E-Hunter combines the fuselage of the battle-proven Hunter UAV with a new tail assembly and a longer center wing to create a UAV that can fly missions up to 30 hours in length, at altitudes in excess of 20,000 feet. The goal of the initial flight was to evaluate E-Hunter’s controllability and handling characteristics. After several high-speed taxi runs, the air vehicle lifted off at a speed of 47 knots. At an altitude of 2,000 feet, the company’s flight operations team conducted a series of controllability tests at 60 knots and 80 knots. After a series of low-approach passes to validate low-speed handling and to visually verify landing gear and arresting hook extension, the air vehicle landed at a speed of approximately 48 knots. The prototype Army One System ground control station used for the E-Hunter flight was produced by Northrop Grumman with its own funding. The One System approach allows the Army to use the same ground control station to operate and control several types of tactical UAVs.
14 Apr 05. United Defense Industries, Inc. continues to expand its role in unmanned ground vehicle programs and technologies with the award of a $30.9m U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) Science and Technology Objective (STO) contract. Under the ARV Robotics Technology (ART) STO contract – awarded by the Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) – United Defense will integrate state-of-the-art unmanned platform technologies leveraged from Army and commercial developments into a representative FCS ARV platform, and support experimentation and testing of these systems during demonstrations. The platform demonstrators will be used by the ART program as a step toward transitioning ART technologies into the FCS ARV System Development and Demonstration effort. The program will include the delivery of an ART vehicle demonstration platform that is autonomously controlled through an advanced mobility suite, and features a suite of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) sensors. Weapon systems, security systems, advanced tactical behaviors software, and a diagnostic/prognostic suite will be integrated in the demonstrator. Experiments are planned for September 2006 and March 2008 to demonstrate the robust nature of the technologies. United Defense will also deliver an ART simulation and integration laboratory (SIL) at the conclusion of the second experiment. Industry subcontractors to United Defense include General Dynamics Robotics Systems (GDRS) and Omnitech Robotics International (ORI).
13 Apr 05. BAE Systems has achieved the first untethered flight of its second-generation ducted-fan unmanned aerial vehicle. The vertical-launch aircraft, built for risk reduction on the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Organic Air Vehicle Class II (OAV II) program, twice completed a course of 10 waypoints at Southern California’s Hansen Field. The seven-minute flight of the ducted-fan aircraft, similar to a design the company is fielding as part of DARPA’s OAV II competition, followed more than 100 tests conducted with a safety tether over the past several months. BAE Systems developed the aircraft as part of an independent R&D effort to design and demonstrate a family of ducted-fan UAVs. The ducted-fan design shrouds the fan, making it ideally suited for company- and platoon-level operations in which takeoffs and landings occur in close p