Maryland-based North Eastern Aeronautical (Neany) has unveiled a prototype high-payload unmanned air vehicle being developed for the US Special Operation Command (SOCOM).

The Arrow UAV, based on a Titan Aircraft Tornado 912 kitplane, is intended to be used as a testbed for trials of new guidance technologies and payloads. A prototype has been flying since April this year for the US Navy Naval Air Systems Command at Yuma Proving Ground.

Neany received an initial contract to begin development in early 2003 and was awarded additional programme funds of up to $9 million in early 2004 to allow further work on enhancing the basic system capabilities. The final configuration of the demonstrator is expected to be locked down by late 2004 with new capabilities to include a military standard 1553 databus.

The UAV is required to be able to support plug-and-play integration of a wide variety of sensor types. SOCOM wants to use the aircraft as a common testbed, allowing it to avoid having to acquire specific new UAV types to explore alternate technologies or operational concepts.

The project is managed by the USNavy on behalf of SOCOM with negotiations currently under way with Neany for the purchase of three more air vehicles in the near term. Total orders could reach 16 UAVs over a three-year period.

All servo and avionics systems are located in the aircraft nose, with the cockpit now supporting two large payload bays and a modular mounting frame for under-fuselage payloads. A new undercarriage has been developed providing 585mm (23in) of ground clearance to allow fitting of turret-based sensors.

The rear of the cockpit also houses a 340 litre (90USgal) fuel tank, giving the UAV an endurance of greater than 17h.

Source: Flight International