EADS Unveils Barracuda UAV Demonstrator

Released on Thursday, May 11, 2006
CFC - Carbon Fibre Composites
COTS - Commercial Off-The-Shelf
ELS - Emitter Locator System
kN - kiloNewton
NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization
SAR - Synthetic Aperture Radar
UAV - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
The EADS Military Air Systems Business Unit has for the first time flight tested an innovative aircraft for the development of future operational Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). During the recent 20-minute flight, the jet-powered air vehicle, which is known to initiated experts by its project name 'Barracuda', followed a pre-programmed course completely autonomously, merely being kept under observation from a ground station. This flight marked the successful completion of the first test phase, which also comprised an extensive series of ground tests. Following presentation at the International Aerospace Exhibition ILA in Berlin, the further development and testing will be continued.

The technology demonstrator has been predominantly financed from EADS' own funds and contributions from the participating suppliers and was built at the EADS sites in Augsburg, Manching and Getafe/Spain.

The experimental system is eight meters long, has a wingspan of more than seven meters and a maximum take-off weight of just over three tones. The testbed is propelled by a jet turbine from Pratt & Whitney Canada which delivers 14 kN thrust. It operated entirely autonomously during its first flight, only being monitored for flight safety purposes from a ground station on the San Javier air base.

This demonstrator contains a mass of technological refinements, even if as many commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components as possible have been used in its basic systems. The structure of this unmanned aircraft is made entirely of carbon-fibre composites (CFC) and was manufactured on the basis of a new EADS patent at the company's Augsburg plant. The wings, which are also manufactured from CFC, come from the EADS plant in Getafe near Madrid. Apart from the landing gear, this is an "electric airborne system" that, in contrast to conventional aircraft, therefore dispenses with hydraulic components and uses electro-mechanical actuators instead.

In unmanned systems, the decisive features are failsafe and non-jammable data transmission between the UAV and the ground station and also reliable flight guidance and control. This requirement was met by, among other things, developing and integrating a triplex flight control and navigation unit. The demonstrator is designed as a user-friendly technology platform for the testing of a wide spectrum of payloads. The avionic system, for instance, was developed as an open and modular structure that allows a large number of sensors to be integrated into the demonstrator. According to current planning, these will include electro-optical and infrared sensors, laser target designators, an Emitter Locator System (ELS) consisting of detectors for picking up radio-magnetic signals and also advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems, which can be integrated on the multisensor principle, being accommodated in the payload bay. In addition to this, it is also possible to equip the testbed for stores tests.

Even if this UAV demonstrator is not a product that is destined for series production, either alone or in cooperation with European partners EADS will be able to gather fundamental know-how for operationally mature next-generation UAV products. With this demonstrator, EADS Military Air Systems will gain practical experience in the interoperability of unmanned systems within "Network Centric Operations" conducted in line with the latest NATO criteria and in autonomous operation interacting with other assets and systems deployed in aerial warfare. The demonstrator will also perform pioneering work towards the certification of UAVs for flight in controlled airspace and the development of "intelligent UAVs" that can autonomously switch from the surveillance of a predetermined area to a reconnaissance role, thus supporting military customers in their decision-making. This experimental testbed will therefore help the European aerospace industry to maintain its role as a global player in such important future technologies.


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