The Eagle Eye unmanned aircraft vehicle under development by Bell Helicopter has achieved its first flight, marking a significant milestone in development of the technology.
The TR918 Eagle Eye is destined for launch customer the US Coast Guard, which plans to order 45 of the aircraft and 33 ground stations with an entry into service date of 2010-11.
Bell’s full-scale pre-production aircraft completed a 9min first flight in the hover and executed yaw and translation manoeuvres and then landed safely. The vehicle flew a second flight within 30min of the maiden flight's landing.
According to Bob Ellithorpe, executive director of Bell's unmanned aircraft systems, reaching this milestone was worth all the hard work.
"Eagle Eye offers a capability never seen in the industry," Ellithorpe explained. "In the hands of the US Coast Guard and all other potential users, Eagle Eye will successfully accomplish a number of critical missions including the most important mission, saving lives. Reaching this first flight milestone puts us one step closer to getting this unmatched capability in the field.”
"This is a tremendous achievement for Bell Helicopter and our Team Eagle Eye partners," said Mike Redenbaugh, Bell chief executive.
"An immense amount of effort and dedication has gone into getting this aircraft in the air successfully."
First flight of the TR918 comes on the heels of recently receiving a certificate of airworthiness for experimental flight-testing from the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Bell says that the TR918 test programme will continue by advancing the tiltrotor nacelles to full aeroplane mode and increasing speed and payload capabilities.
Bell has opened a UAV centre of excellence in Grason, Texas to serve as a flight-test base for the Eagle Eye and the proving ground for UAV concepts.
Source: Flight Daily News