[Avionics Today May 9, 2014] Northrop Grumman and Yamaha Motor Corp., are working jointly to develop an unmanned helicopter, to be called the Rotary Bat (R-Bat). The system is based on a small-scale helicopter airframe already used by Yamaha, the RMAX.
R-Bat unmanned helicopter. Photo, courtesy of Northrop Grumman.
Both companies are positioning the R-Bat as an unmanned helicopter for commercial 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 [ISR] 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."
Yamaha's RMAX is already used extensively as a commercial UAS to support agricultural activities outside of the U.S. In Japan, the RMAX provides "agricultural support services" to more than 2.4 million acres of farmland annually, Northrop Grumman said.
The Cypress, Calif.-based Yamaha has been looking to bring the RMAX to U.S. farmers, but has been unable to obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) for commercial operation of the aircraft in North America. In January, Yamaha Motor Corp. Vice President of Corporate Planning Henio Arcangeli told the Senate transportation committee that the RMAX has been performing crop dusting in Japan for over 20 years, and that the U.S. is ready for it as well.
Regardless, Toshizumi Kato, president of Yamaha Motor Corp., believes the new partnership with Northrop Grumman will be a successful commercial UAS platform.
"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," said Kato.
The two companies have not yet proposed a timeline for when the R-Bat could be certified and commercially available in the U.S. and abroad.