Sikorsky believes it has resolved technical problems with the Cypher II unmanned air vehicle (UAV), which will allow tethered- and flight-testing prior to delivery to the US Army by the end of this year.


Cypher II is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) tactical UAV, evolved from the company-developed Cypher. Sikorsky was to have provided two Cypher IIs to the US Marine Corps for field experiments, but the Corps' interest waned when problems with the drive system grounded the UAV.

The US Army's Night Vision and Electronics Sensors Directorate, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, is interested in Cypher II, however, and has agreed to operate it as a VTOL UAV testbed.

Cypher II is powered by two Herbranson engines driving a single main gearbox whereas the original Cypher had a single powerplant. Both designs incorporate a shrouded rotor, but Cypher II is also fitted with a pusher propeller and removeable wings, both of which boost performance.

Sikorsky officials say ground runs were successful. Thirty days of tethered flights will shortly be undertaken at Stratford, Connecticut, followed by flight trials at Sikorsky's flight test centre at West Palm Beach, Florida. Meanwhile, a second Cypher II is being built.

The company says some Cypher II drive system components were strengthened after severe vibrations caused initial transmission parts to fail prior to test flights.

The US Army is acquiring AAI Shadow 200 fixed-wing tactical UAVs, but interest is growing in VTOL UAVs. One concept would be to team UAVs with attack helicopters. The Night Vision and Electronics Sensors Directorate will evaluate a variety of sensors on the Cypher II.

Source: Flight International