Under a $12.8 million contract Boeing will adapt its A160T Hummingbird unmanned helicopter to carry signals intelligence (SIGINT) payloads and BAE Systems' Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) surveillance system.

The deal with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) extends work the agency has already done with Boeing and the Hummingbird on ARGUS-IS operation. BAE has been developing ARGUS-IS - a high-resolution daytime surveillance system with onboard processing - since 2007. It can simultaneously and continuously detect and track the presence and motion of thousands of small or large targets over broad areas. BAE is also working on an infrared version of ARGUS for night operations.

Boeing will equip the Hummingbird to demonstrate to carry a modified ARGUS-IS pod and SIGINT payloads by the end of May 2011, DARPA says.

The long-endurance A160T employs optimum speed rotor technology that varies engine rotations per minute from 100 percent in vertical mode to 50 percent in cruise. The unmanned helicopter has demonstrated a long endurance flight lasting 18.7hr with a 136kg (300lb) payload, and holds the record for endurance in its class at 18.7h.

Source: Flight International