Ground testing is underway on a key technology for an innovative vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV that is being developed by the Unmanned Systems Group.

While the scale model of the Atro-X on display at the show might look like other VTOL systems visible elsewhere inside the same exhibition hall, its use of a patented tip-jet propulsion system should give it a significant advantage in payload capacity and reliability, claims business development director Phil Hoole.

The Atro-X has a small turbojet engine mounted on its 6.2m (20ft) diameter rigid rotor, with hot air drawn from this and channelled along two hollow blades, before being passed through nozzles mounted at their tips to provide drive. This configuration offers a weight benefit by removing the need for the aircraft to have a gearbox and tail rotor fitted, while yaw control will be achieved by the use of moveable tail surfaces.

Testing is so far being conducted using a tethered testbed not resembling an aircraft, but a production system is expected to have a 350kg (770lb) maximum take-off weight, and be capable of flying with a large payload capacity of 120kg. Flight endurance would be around 4.5h, with the UAV to have a top speed of 108kt (200km/h) and a service ceiling of around 11,500ft.

Payload candidates would include FLIR Systems' UltraForce 350 high-definition electro-optical/infrared sensor, the Selex ES Seaspray 5000E maritime surveillance radar, and electronic or signals intelligence equipment, according to the Swiss-headquartered company.

Source: Flight Daily News