ONR’s Flexrotor enters new phase of development

The Office of Naval Research’s Flexrotor vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is entering the next phase of its development, the US Navy announced 30 April.

The USN has awarded Aerovel Corp a contract to improve the Flexrotor’s capabilities with a new propulsion system to help the aircraft better transition from vertical to cruising flight.

The small UAV features an oversized propeller which acts like a helicopter’s rotors for vertical takeoff and landing, but it also has wings for conventional flight.

The Flexrotor first demonstrated such a transition in August 2011.

The UAV could eventually be used for special operations missions. “[The special ops personnel] like the idea of not exposing where they are when they need to launch and recover one,” says John Kinzer, ONR program officer for Air Vehicle Technology. “They could put it on a mountaintop somewhere and just leave it to do surveillance.”

The service says there are also potential applications to Arctic surveillance and weather reporting for the Navy and other organizations, such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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