ONR's Flexrotor UAV Program Heads to Next Phase
May 1, 2012 11:58 AM
Testing in high winds is the next step
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) Flexrotor program is developing a UAV that is part helicopter and part airplane. This UAV differ significantly from the design of traditional aircraft, and takes cues from the
, which takes off like a helicopter and has tilting rotors the transition for forward flight. This is much different from the
, which takes off and lands a traditional airplane.
The Flexrotor prototype entered the next development phase as of April 30.
This phase of the project will see Aerovel Corporation advance the capabilities of the UAV with an upgraded propulsion system giving it the ability to transfer from vertical cruising flight and to land under crosswinds and high winds. The first major milestone for the UAV was achieved in August of 2011 when the aircraft first transitioned from horizontal to vertical flight and then back again.
"With Flexrotor, the two biggest benefits to Sailors and Marines would be the ability to do extended maritime surveillance from a ship, and to do so with a small footprint," said John Kinzer, ONR program officer for Air Vehicle Technology.
The flight control system of the UAV is incredibly complex to allow for both vertical takeoff and horizontal cruising flight. The propeller has to be large enough to support hovering capabilities and small enough to be efficient in forward flight. The latest phase of flight-testing will have the aircraft testing in windy conditions and gradually increasing the operational envelope of the prototype.
The program is also being sponsored by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, which is working to develop a servicing capability for the UAV. Aerovel is creating an automatic servicing platform that would service launch and landing pad along with acting as the aircraft maintenance bay. Automated maintenance also allows the aircraft to be used remotely for surveillance or personnel were around for maintenance such as refueling.
"[The special ops personnel] like the idea of not exposing where they are when they need to launch and recover one," Kinzer said. "They could put it on a mountaintop somewhere and just leave it to do surveillance."
Office of Naval Research
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