Northrop Grumman has announced completing the first flight of the Rotary Bat (R-Bat) unmanned helicopter, a new version of the Yamaha Motor RMAX dedicated for military reconnaissance.

Yamaha has supplied small unmanned helicopters to Japanese farmers for decades for use as cropdusters in rice paddies. The RMAX – listed on Yamaha Motor’s website as a 61lb aircraft with a 246cc, 2-stroke engine –has operated in that role since 1998.

As the R-Bat, Northrop is now integrating new autonomous control and intelligence-gathering technology on the aircraft to perform in new roles, such as search and rescue, power line inspection and forest fire observation.

“Yamaha Motor’s lineage of reliable products speaks to the strength of R-Bat as a new member of our proven unmanned system portfolio, says George Vardoulakis, Northrop’s vice-president for medium range tactical systems.

The R-Bat joins Northrop’s family of flying-wing Bat unmanned air systems (UAS), such as the Bat 12.

“Northrop Grumman’s merging of our efficient and affordable aircraft with their expertise in autonomous control systems will deliver a unique capability to their Bat UAS portfolio,” says Tohsizumi Kato, president of Yamaha Motor USA.