BAE Systems is to resume flight testing of its Herti 1B developmental endurance UAV at the Woomera test range in central Australia in April.
The new flight campaign is intended to continue work on the expansion of the UAV’s flight envelope says to Herman Claesen, BAE Systems business development executive for military utility UAVs.
Planning is also underway for exploration of Herti 1B into mixed traffic airspace environments from midway through this year via operations from the Royal Australian Air Force’s West Sale base in south eastern Australia.
Speaking 15 March at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems Asia Pacific conference in Melbourne, Australia, Claesen said that the April flight campaign would pick up from flights at Woomera in November and December.
He said the most recent flights were used to assess the full capabilities of the Herti autonomous image collection and exploitation (ICE) sensor suite, as well as continuing to explore the UAV’s flight envelope. “This was very successful from an ICE point of view but we didn’t manage to do as much as we wanted to do in terms of expanding the envelope”.
He said that weather during the southern hemisphere summer had caused a loss of several flying days. “So we are going back next month for a brief period to get quite a few flights in to expand the envelope even further.”
Claesen said the West Sale flights were intended to “push the boundaries in terms of integrating that particular platform within controlled and uncontrolled airspace, specifically in terms of Sale and controlled airspace”.
Heidi Fourier, UAV operations head for BAE Systems Australia, says the 2007 West Sale campaign will see Herti operating at ranges of up to 15nm from the airfield at altitudes of up to 6,000ft. “Going further than that we will go to a 20nm lateral limit up to 10,000ft and our future objective, in 2008, will basically put us up to 30,000ft.”
BAE Systems Australia officially opened a UAV trials and test facility at the West Sale airport in November last year. However the company has operated from the site for the past 20 months using its Kingfisher series of UAVs. Sale is located on the South eastern Australian coastline to the east of Melbourne.
RAAF Sale supports military fixed wing training as well as scheduled civil flights and general aviation traffic. BAE Systems last year executed a deed of agreement with the RAAF allowing operations for an initial 12 month period with options on the table for another 18 months. Further extensions are possible Fourier says. “With the higher end UAVs it will probably be extended to five years.”
In turn, the deed has allowed the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority to issue the company with permanent operating approvals for UAV flights from the airfield. “So we don’t need to request operating approval anymore, we just request a NOTAM and file and fly like everyone else.”
Development of airspace access at the airfield has been based on a progressive expansion model Fourier says. Initial operations were conducted using BAE Systems Australia Kingfisher 1 UAVs with this establishing operation in an envelope reaching up to 1000ft and out to 2nm from the field.
Kingfisher 1 and 2 series UAVs were then used to expand the envelope up to 1,500ft. Kingfisher 2s will also be used to support the expansion of airspace access up to 10,000ft as part of paving the way for Herti operations Fourier says.
Herti uses the same avionics and ground control station as the Kingfisher series.
BAE Systems plans to roll out a third Herti demonstrator, built to the 1B standard, in July as part of plans to prepare the UAV for production. “From a UK perspective we are very keen to develop the Herti product to a mature system,” says Claesen.