AgustaWestland has revealed the results of the live trial phase of the UK Royal Navy’s Rotary Wing Unmanned Air System (RWUAS) capability concept demonstration (CCD) programme.
The trials, contracted to the airframer in 2013, took place in May at Llanbedr airfield in Wales, with the PZL Swidnik SW-4 Solo optionally-piloted vehicle carrying out 26 flights over 27 flight hours, with 22 further simulated ship launch and recovery demonstrations to demonstrate the ability of the UAV to land on a pitching and rolling surface.
The CCD effort was delivered on time and on schedule, Tony Duthie, head of market development for AgustaWestland, notes, and shows how the control system of the Solo could be integrated with a ship's combat management system for potential future operations on board navy vessels.
Points of interest were uploaded to the control station and the Solo then followed the generated tracks.
AgustaWestland says that it brings autopilot, flight control, stabilisation and datalink experience from its manned rotorcraft business to the development.
Duthie says this type of operation will be limited until airspace restrictions are lifted, but optionally-piloted vehicles allow for this technology to be rapidly tested because the aircraft is not confined to danger zones and other controlled airspace, as it is certified to fly in open airspace.
While there is no clarification on what the navy intends to do following the completion of the CCD, Duthie says that there is little value in carrying out this development unless it can be exploited from a business perspective, so AgustaWestland plans to continue to hone the technology, should the navy require it.
“We stand by ready to help the navy in any way that it wants to go,” he adds. “There are a number of initiatives, going forward. An unmanned Joint Warrior exercise is planned for 2016, and it is our intention to participate in that.”
Meanwhile the smaller Hero rotary UAV, co-developed by AgustaWestland and IDS, is closing on certification with Italian civil regulator ENAC.
With a 6h endurance and a 25kg payload, integrated payloads for Hero include an active electronically-scanned array radar and an electro-optical/infrared sensor, with Selex ES' Sage electronic support measures system and a communications relay capability being options for further integration.
The technology is applicable up to a tiltrotor-sized aircraft, Duthie says.