Flight-testing of private-venture ducted-fan VTOL UAV expected within a month

Aurora Flight Sciences is preparing to fly a ducted-fan vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air vehicle (UAV). The GoldenEye is aimed at commercial as well as military low-altitude, local-area surveillance, including law enforcement, fire-fighting, pipeline monitoring, tuna fishing and news gathering.

Flight-testing of the private-venture GoldenEye 100 should begin within a month, says programme manager Carl Schaefer. A half-scale version, the GoldenEye 50, is being built and will be first to transition from vertical to horizontal flight, scheduled for August, he says. Manassass, Virginia-based Aurora has also proposed an 85%-scale version of the vehicle to meet the VTOL UAV requirements of the US Army's Future Combat System.

Aurora plans to begin commercial production early next year, initially building a fleet of six vehicles for demonstration or lease to customers. "We are looking at both vehicles, but near term it is likely to be the GoldenEye 50," says Schaefer. There is a potential homeland defence market for the smaller UAV for nuclear, biological and chemical detection. In rate production, the GoldenEye 100 will cost about $100,000 and the half-size UAV about $50,000.

The GoldenEye 100 is a 68kg (150lb) gross-weight vehicle capable of carrying 20kg of payload and fuel. With a 9kg payload, the vehicle can hover for up to 60min or cruise for 4h at 140kt (260km/h), with a range exceeding 925km (500nm) and a dash speed of 160kt. The powerplant is a 28kW (38hp) UEL AR781 rotary engine. The vehicle is controlled from a laptop computer.

The 0.9m (3ft)-diameter duct increases fan efficiency, improves safety, reduces noise and provides lift in forward flight, says Aurora. A variable-geometry nozzle optimises fan efficiency and provides thrust-vectoring for vehicle control. A 3m-span pivoting wing increases endurance in forward flight, reduces gust sensitivity in the hover and allows a rapid transition from horizontal to vertical flight, says the company.

Source: Flight International