Aurora Flight Sciences has begun flight testing its GoldenEye 80 vertical take-off and landing unmanned air vehicle, developed under the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Organic Air vehicle (OAV-II) programme.

The first ducted-fan UAV to fly with a heavy-fuel engine, according to Aurora, the 1.65m (5.4ft)-tall, 68kg (150lb) GoldenEye 80 is one of three candidates for the US Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) Class II UAV requirement.

Its first test (pictured below) was a hover, but the UAV can transition to forward flight and Aurora plans to add swivelling wings that will extend endurance to 6-8h, from the 2h required for OAV-II. The smaller GoldenEye 50 has demonstrated wingborne flight.

Goldeneye 80 hover
© Aurora Flight Sciences
 Goldeneye 80 close-up

Extended endurance could allow the vehicle the straddle the FCS Class II and III UAV requirements, believes Aurora, which is awaiting the results of a Department of Defense “mix” study into whether the USA Army’s UAVs can be rationalised.

Other Class II contenders are a Honeywell ducted-fan UAV also being developed under the OAV-II programme and Piasecki’s Air Guard, which has tandem shrouded rotors.