AUVSI: Aurora reveals Reaper-like payloads for Orion

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Aurora Flight Sciences has revealed the payload options in consideration for the experimental Orion UAS, a five-day endurance vehicle now in development.

The payload options show the medium-altitude Orion will, as expected, perform roles similar to the unarmed L-3 Communications MC-12W Liberty and armed General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1B Predator fleets, said Bob Ashton, Aurora's director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

In one configuration, the Orion will resemble a longer-endurance version of a Reaper equipped with the Sierra Nevada Gorgon Stare wide area surveillance pod, including the Raytheon multi-spectral targeting system mounted under the nose.

 bob ashton – payload options for orion
 ©2011 BillyPix
Bob Ashton – payload options for Orion

The Orion is also considering a range of non-optical intelligence systems, including the Northrop Grumman vehicle and dismount exploitation radar (VADER) and AcesHy hyperspectral sensor, Ashton said.

Aurora also intends to leverage the expertise of Michigan-based Consolidated Resources, which helped develop the US Army's Constant Hawk surveillance aircraft and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's autonomous real-time ground ubiquitous surveillance imaging system.

The US Air Force has cleared funding to partially developed the avionics system for the Orion. Full funding to complete development of the vehicle and launch flight tests still awaits a reprogramming action, Ashton said.