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Bell TR918 Eagle Eye - Image Courtesy Aero-News Network, Inc.
Bell Helicopter flies a UAV based on the same design principles seen on the V-22 Osprey

Bell Helicopter’s highly complex V-22 Osprey has had quite a bumpy ride since its first flight in 1989. The program has been plagued by setbacks resulting from multiple crashes which took the lives of over two dozen Marines. Now, just as the V-22 is finally moving to production status, Bell is taking tilt-rotors to the unmanned aircraft field.

The Bell TR918 Eagle Eye Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) first took to the air on January 26th, 2006 with FAA certification. The Eagle uses a tilt-rotor system based on the same design used in the V-22 Osprey (and the Bell XV-15 before it). This gives the aircraft the ability to take off and land like a helicopter while also giving it a top speed closer to that of a fixed-wing airplane. The Eagle Eye weighs in at just over one ton, has a top speed of 250MPH and can stay aloft for up to six hours.

Bob Ellithorpe of Bell's Unmanned Aircraft Systems states: "Eagle Eye offers a capability never seen in the UAS industry. In the hands of our Coast Guard Homeland Defenders and all other potential users, Eagle Eye will successfully accomplish a number of critical missions including the most important mission, saving lives. Reaching this first flight milestone puts us one step closer to getting this unmatched capability in the field."

More here.

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Tilt Jets??
By ninjit on 2/5/2006 4:04:44 AM , Rating: 2
Since they've managed to get the tilt prop plane to work - albeit very buggy at best - couldn't they do the same thing but with jet engines?

All the same engineering problems that they would have solved for the props would apply to jets as well:
Structural integrity to maintain force transfer between engine and wing; hydraulics to control tilt; flexible but durable fuel delivery lines to the engine, etc. etc.

The only additional issue would be burning the crap out of the ground the plane landed/took-off on (which is probably why they went with props in the first place), but I still think it would be cool to see in action.

RE: Tilt Jets??
By The Cheeba on 2/5/2006 4:12:54 AM , Rating: 2
I guess they could, but why when there is a VTOL JSF?


RE: Tilt Jets??
By oTAL on 2/5/2006 5:13:15 PM , Rating: 2
Hmmm... I think turbines are a little more obvious... Aren't there many advantages to using tubines?

RE: Tilt Jets??
By stephenbrooks on 2/5/2006 8:42:01 AM , Rating: 2
There's thrust-vectoring too, which is a bit like tilting jets, but not as extreme.

RE: Tilt Jets??
By rgsaunders on 2/5/2006 10:35:16 AM , Rating: 2
A little research would reveal that this headline is about 16 years out of date, Bell's initial testing on the tiltrotor UAV took place in 1990. As to the issue of tilt rotor vs jet, the rotor is is quieter, more fuel efficient, lighter, etc. All of these factors are important for a stealth platform with a requirement for flight endurance.

RE: Tilt Jets??
By rgsaunders on 2/5/2006 1:30:49 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, I must correct my previous post, it was the Eagle Eye machine tested at that time. The first demo of the Eagle Eye prototype, the TR-911X, successfully demoed in Yuma in 1998, all tests exceeded original objectives. Further demonstrations in 2000 also exceeded requirements. What took place last month was the FAA certification for the Eagle Eye.

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