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.