The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued bids for phase two of the Organic Air Vehicle (OAV) programme, and reveals that it plans to merge the effort with an upcoming micro air vehicles (MAV) technology demonstration programme.

The OAV is part of the combined DARPA/US Army's Future Combat System (FCS) programme, and is aimed at development of mini, autonomous unmanned air vehicles that can be operated by platoon level units as small as six soldiers. It builds on DARPA's MAV project, completed in 2000, but is aimed at slightly larger craft up to 0.7m in diameter. The OAV will be used for tactical reconnaissance and surveillance, covert imaging, threat warning, targeting and message relaying.

Two major OAV teams, led by Honeywell and Micro Craft, have up to 45 days to respond, with a winner to be announced by the end of December. The contract will cover further tests of OAV concepts to prove operational readiness by April 2003.

According to OAV programme manager Sam Wilson, the effort will be merged with a MAV advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) project now in the final proposal stages for 2002. After passing a Joint Requirements Oversight Council review, it is expected to be sanctioned for go-ahead next year. "We are going to merge the two programmes, so we have the MAV ACTD working together with the OAV," says Wilson.

The move to link the MAV effort, which is focused on man-portable micro-UAVs measuring between 150mm and 220mm, with the current OAV effort, will help preserve funding and avoid duplication, says Wilson.

Under the MAV ACTD, plans call for a US Army field evaluation of 100 electric-powered vehicles beginning in October 2002, followed a year later by a similar trial of 100 mini-diesel powered vehicles.

A third hybrid version, combining electrical and diesel components and able to restart itself in the field, would be tested in October 2004.

Wilson was speaking at a flight demonstration of the Kestrel, the ducted-fan OAV developed by a Honeywell-led team including AeroVironment, MLB, D-Star Engineering, Techsburg, NASA Ames Army Rotorcraft Directorate and Cypress International.

More than 70h of test flights have been accumulated by two Kestrel vehicles since the first flew on 1 September.

Source: Flight International