China's Sunward Tech SVU200 unmanned helicopter has successfully completed its first autonomous flight tests.
The helicopter's first full autonomous flight occurred on 4 September near the Chinese city of Changsha, says Dennis Fetters, owner of Fetters Aerospace. Fetters is an American rotorcraft developer who designed the SVU200 for Sunward.
During the SVU200's first autonomous flight, the helicopter completed an auto take-off, hovered and flew sideways and backwards before landing exactly where it took off.
On 5 September, the SVU200 transited a 2.1nm (4km) course, navigating with waypoints and landing back at its starting position. It successfully completed a 2.7nm autonomous flight shortly after.
"This event marked a turning point in the project, where the SVU200 transformed from a large helicopter flying under "human-stabilised remote-control" to a fully self-stabilised and self-controlled GPS-navigating autonomous flying vehicle," says Fetters. The SVU200's rotor head and control system provides "super-stable" control that requires one-tenth of the computer-stabilising control inputs required by other large unmanned helicopters, he adds.
The aircraft has two payload bays, one in the nose and one in the rear. It also has hardpoints and can haul sling loads. It can be mounted with an external payload pod or external fuel tanks.
The SVU200 is powered by a Rotax 582 engine. Fetters says this uses a special exhaust system that enables engine power to increase from its normal 65hp (48.5kW) to 78hp. This feature allows the design to lift a maximum useful load of 200kg (441lb), or to achieve a top speed of 113kt (209km/h).