Commercial, Military

Airbus Defence and Space Tests Jet-Propelled Drone Demonstrator

By S.L. Fuller | July 21, 2017

Photo: Airbus

Photo: Airbus

Airbus Defence and Space’s unmanned jet-propelled demonstrator has been successfully tested, Airbus said. Under the SAGITTA project, the drone flew autonomously for seven minutes over the test site in Overberg, South Africa.

The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flew on a pre-programmed course. Airbus said its “flying-wing construction” showed “excellent flight characteristics.” The test marked completion of the first test phase, which also included ground testing.

Measuring 9.8 feet by 9.8 feet, the drone was constructed on a scale of 1 to 4, Airbus said. It is powered by two 300 N turbines and has a maximum takeoff weight of 330.7 pounds. Airbus said the aircraft is produced using multiple new manufacturing processes. It is controlled by electromechanical actuators instead of hydraulic components, with the brakes as an exception. Airbus does not intend to bring the drone to market, but it said both it and its partners can use the drone to gain insights to develop next-generation products.

"With SAGITTA’s first flight, we have proved just how successful a cooperation between industry and academic partners can be in the area of basic research," said Grazia Vittadini, head of engineering at Airbus Defence and Space. "We are increasingly shifting our focus toward these kinds of innovative concepts, in particular for the development of UAS, so that we can develop products quickly and efficiently for a growing market."

Open Innovation/SAGITTA was launched by Airbus in 2010, the company said. To carry out the initiative, Airbus works with institutes from the technical universities of Munich and Chemnitz, Germany, the University of the Federal Armed Forces (Universität der Bundeswehr) in Munich, the Ingolstadt Universty of Applied Sciences and the German Aerospace Centre, DLR. Together, the parties endeavor to develop advanced technologies for UAS. Studying the feasibility of the flying-wing configuration is the first project in the initiative.

“Criteria for the design included a high degree of autonomy, variable mission profiles and low levels of perceptibility,” Airbus said. “To achieve this, the inter-institutional research team adopted approaches from academic and industrial research, developed these further and incorporated them into solutions for industrial application.”

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