FARNBOROUGH 2008: BAE develops rotary and lighter-than-air UAVs

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BAE Systems is applying its UAV technology to different platforms, with both an unmanned autogyro and an unmanned airship on show.

The new Ampersand unmanned autonomous system (UAS) is displayed in BAE’s pavilion. It is a rotary winged counterpart to the company’s motor-glider-based Herti, as it adds BAE’s autonomous UAV system and a Herti-type sensor suite to a proven autogyro platform.

BAE’s purchase of a Rotax-engined Rotorsport UK MT-03 autogyro last year, originally thought to have been intended for UAV chase duties, was actually made in support of the Ampersand programme.

The aircraft is initially being flown manned with former BAE Warton chief test pilot John Turner exploring the aircraft’s performance envelope.The aircraft is intended for maritime or naval applications, landing on and taking off from small ship platforms.

Meanwhile BAE Systems has modified the GA22 airship, developed by balloon adventurer Per Lindstrand’s company Lindstrand Technologies, into what it sees as a perfect platform for communications relay or carriage of surveillance equipment.

Richard Williams, director of civil autonomous systems at BAE Systems, said: “The GA22 has a range of unique capabilities and we have identified a number of roles at major events, from sporting occasions to floods and forest fires.”

BAE Systems designers have modified GA22 design in order to carry a payload of up to 150kg to heights of more than 6,500ft. The 22m long GA22 is currently radio-controlled but BAE plans to make it fully autonomous.