AUVSI: L-3 flexes MALE muscle with Mobius

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L-3 Communications has unveiled the optionally manned Mobius aircraft, launching the firm into the hotly contested market for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles and fulfilling a corporate goal to expand as a systems integrator.

Based on the high-performance Berkut kit aircraft, Mobius flew publicly yesterday during the AUVSI air demonstration at Webster Field, Maryland. Its aerial routine demonstrated the 12.5g-aircraft's ability to bank at 45° angles and dash at up to 215kt.

the l-3 communications mobius unmanned air vehicle flew at the auvsi unmanned systems north america 2009 demo at webster field, maryland on 10 august 2009
©BillyPix

 The L-3 Communications Mobius unmanned air vehicle flew at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America 2009 demo at Webster Field, Maryland on 10 August 2009
A pilot flew in the cockpit during the air demonstration, but Mobius's aerial display was controlled entirely from the ground. The pilot served merely as a 198lb "safety-redundant sensor" that can be replaced with fuel or payload for a pure unmanned configuration, says Todd Gautier, senior vice-president of Business Development, L-3 Sensors and Simulation Group.

Mobius is aimed at filling a gap in the market for a MALE capability at prices more comparable to more tactical, long-endurance UAVs, Gautier says. Powered by a Lycoming issue and a three-bladed propeller, Mobius is unique among purely unmanned or even optionally manned UAVs in the MALE class, Gautier says.

L-3 has completed building two flying Mobius aircraft and a third is in the final stages of production, he adds. The aircraft has evolved from a first to a second generation configuration, and is advancing to be ready for low-rate initial production starting in 2010, he says.

One new innovation designed and patented for Mobius is a retractable elevator for the L-3 Wescam MX-15, allowing the sensor turret to retract into the fuselage, Gautier says. This elevator system can be applied to other aircraft as well.