California-based Aerovironment is planning to stage a commercial telecommunications demonstration of its Global Observer high altitude long endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) within the next three months.

The telecommunications demonstration is currently the subject of talks with the Japanese government says company vice president Bob Curtin.

Speaking to Flight Unmanned at the Unmanned Systems North America 2006 exhibition in Orlando, Florida, Curtin said that the demonstration was likely to occur in Californian airspace.

Aerovironment and the Japanese telecommunications ministry last cooperated together in July 2002 to stage a demonstration of communications broadcast using the company’s solar powered Pathfinder Plus flying wing UAV. Those demonstrations included high definition television broadcast and 3G mobile telephony services with payloads provided by NEC and Toshiba and air vehicle integration carried out by Fujitsu Heavy Industries.

Details of the proposed new demonstration are still under negotiation.

Curtin also says that the company is also preparing to carry out what is expected to be the final flight test campaign for its SkyTote vertical take off and landing logistics UAV. The tail sitting, counter-rotating propeller UAV has been under development since 1998 for the US Air Force research laboratory, but has experienced a number of technical problems.

“We have done hover test but transition is a big challenge” Curtin says. The new flight programme is to be carried out in “two months”.

Funding for the project, from the US Air Force Research Laboratories' small business initiative research programme, ends late this calendar year. Further development of the UAV remains dependent on identifying new sponsors Curtin says.
Meanwhile Aerovironment is to this month stage a demonstration of its Aqua Puma hand launched UAV for the Royal Australian Navy. First proposed by Aerovironment in February this year, the flights will occur from a RAN Armidale class patrol boat and will seek to explore the utility of small UAVs to augment maritime surveillance operations in Australia’s northern waters.

Aqua Puma was developed for the US Special Forces Command under a rapid upgrade programme launched by Aerovironment in response to requirements from field units operating along the Tigress and Euphrates rivers in Iraq.