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Monday, October 1, 2012

PZL-Swidnik Introduces Optionally Piloted SW-4 Solo

By Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large

The PZL-Swidnik SW-4 Solo on display during the International Defence Industry Exhibition in early September.

Poland-based AgustaWestland subsidiary PZL-Swidnik took the wraps off its SW-4 “Solo” helicopter program during the International Defence Industry Exhibition (MSPO) in Kielce, Poland. The prototype is what the company calls a “Rotorcraft Unmanned Air System/Optionally Piloted Helicopter” (RUAS/OPH). PZL-Swidnik plans to market the aircraft—designed for both land and maritime missions—as a multi-role platform capable of a wide variety of homeland and battlefield missions.

In the manned pilot mode, the light, single-engine RUAS/OPH can transport a pilot and four passengers, the same as its manned-only predecessor the SW-4 Maluch. In unmanned mode, PZL reports that it can perform surveillance, target acquisition, reconnaissance, environment monitoring, ground survey, and cargo-carrying missions.

Both Boeing Aircraft and Kaman Helicopters have optionally manned aircraft flying. Boeing’s Little Bird, based on the MD Helicopters design, is well into its flight testing stage, while a pair of Kaman/Lockheed Martin K-Max unmanned aerial trucks (UATs) are currently flying missions with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. PZL-Swidnik says its RUAS/OPH prototype will make its maiden flight with a pilot onboard in the coming months, and be flown remotely sometime in 2013.

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