The Boeing company has released that is performing flight testing on a new
advanced technology combining the advanced of unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and
a combat proven manned rotorcraft helicopter at company's facilities in Mesa,
proof-of-concept demonstrator, named the 'Unmanned Little Bird', consists of a
modified MD-530F helicopter that has been flying since September 8 and made its
first autonomous take off and landing October 16.
Until now, the Unmanned Little Bird has logged more than 20 hours while flying
in autonomous flight mode (UAV) carrying a test pilot that monitors the aircraft
overall performance but not actively flying the MD-530F helicopter. The
prototype helicopter is expected to continue the validation flight testing
program over 2005. Boeing projects the flight control technology to be
integrated easily into existing manned aircraft.
Boeing is funding this research and development program, which is demonstrating
Level 5 capabilities, indicating it can be flown autonomously while its payload
or sensor is guided from a remote site. According to Boeing, Level 5
capabilities fit well into AH-64D Apache Longbow combat helicopter, which has
already demonstrated such capabilities during other UAV test programs.
The flight control technology developed by Boeing aim is to offer military
operators the chance to turn manned airborne platforms into low cost,
multi-purpose unmanned aircraft capable of performing high risk combat missions
operable and deployable with ease. The flight control technology also supports
network-centric operations which are deemed as common operations on the
battlefields of the future.
Waldo Carmona, director of Advanced Army Systems, noted that Unmanned Little
Bird can be configured to carry external payloads and to launch weapons in
combat. Boeing expects that future testing will demonstrate a wide range of
missions such as surveillance communications relay. Little Birds operated by the
US Special Operations Forces could be the first aircraft to benefit from the
Unmanned Little Bird program.
The Unmanned Little Bird program was unveiled by Boeing at the 2004 Association
of the United States Army (AUSA) exposition in Washington, D.C.
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