After six months of discussions, UAV manufacturer AME has announced its intent to integrate the prototype Fury 1500 onto launchers used by AAI.
AAI manufactures the RQ-7B Shadow, the US Army's standard tactical UAV, as well as its Zodiac launcher. AME will modify the wings of the significantly heavier Fury, decreasing the wing sweep and increasing the wingspan for better low-speed handling characteristics.
"We can fly much further than existing Army tactical systems," says AME president and CEO John Purvis. "Full-up Fury requires more capability."
Tests will be conducted using a standard-wing Fury with modifications to reduce weight. Ten to twelve flights are included in the test program, which is scheduled to begin in mid-September and conclude by the end of the year.
Evaluations conducted in January with a standard Fury proved the Zodiac to be reliable but incapable of launching an aircraft with the weight and handling of the Fury.
AME declined to comment on other potential collaboration with AAI, including the next-generation Shadow-M2, currently in design phase.
The Fury 1500 is being built for an undisclosed US customer. The tie-up was not suggested or required by Fury's customer, said Purvis, but simplified logistics are always welcome.
Fury is not yet operational. Recent tests using a heavy-fuel engine, required by the US military, took place with a 3W engine.
Closely related engines from Ricardo and Orbital are under consideration for production versions. The difference in engines, says Purvis, is the difference in fuel efficiencies; the Fury is currently capable of 16h flights, but AME is aiming for a 24h endurance.
A deployment with a fleet of production models is planned for the spring to an undisclosed location for undisclosed operations.
AME is displaying a radar cross-section testbed in full operational camouflage at AUVSI.