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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Turbine A160T Flies 8 Hr

UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES

Boeing is gearing up for further testing of its A160T Hummingbird unmanned aerial vehicle following the aircraft’s completion of a Sept. 27 flight test in which it carried a 1,000-lb payload for 8 hr.

Built in response to a U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency request in 1999, the 35-ft-long aircraft (with a 36-ft-dia rotor, is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207D turbine-powered engine..

The drone has the capability to take off and fly a mission autonomously once a mission plan is loaded into its flight computers. Initially, said Boeing, the Hummingbird may be controlled from a tactical operations center, then transferred to a ground control station in a Humvee and ultimately controlled by soldier in the field with a laptop and an antenna.

The Hummingbird is built of a graphite composite and designed to fly for a maximum of 20 hr. It has a top speed of 170 kt and a high hover capability of up to 15,000 ft. It carries four large fuel tanks, the capacity of which Boeing declined to specify.

The aircraft features an optimum-speed rotor technology that allows the rotor to be slowed 50 percent from its top operating speed by adjusting to different altitudes, gross weights, and cruise speeds. The Hummingbird is far quieter than other unmanned aerial vehicles due to this technology, said Boeing.

One of the advantages of the Hummingbird, said Boeing, is its ability to carry a large payload for an extended period of time. The multi-purpose, 10-ft-long payload module, able to carry well in excess of 1,000 lb, is designed to be loaded with supplies and high-value payloads.

It can be equipped with electro-optical or infrared sensors, synthetic aperture, ground moving-target indicator, or forest-penetration radar, and beyond-line-of-sight satellite communications links.

The next tests will have the Hummingbird fly for 12 hr with a 500-lb load, then 18 hr with a 300-lb load.

Boeing said even though the craft is still in the testing phase, the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard have all expressed interest in it.

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