Alenia Aeronautica is offering to conduct operations of its Sky-X unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstrator for military and industry users, after resuming flight tests of the aircraft at Sweden’s Vidsel range last month, writes Craig Hoyle.

Requiring a further 10-15 flights before year-end, the campaign will complete Phase 1 activities related to the Alenia-funded project, which recorded its first flight last May. These will concentrate on expanding the air vehicle’s flight envelope, developing its autopilot, navigation, datalink and tracking systems and demonstrating its semi-autonomous take-off and landing capability.

Alenia plans to launch a second phase of trials to run through 2006-7, with these to introduce increased levels of system autonomy and sensors integrated in the Sky-X’s modular weapons bay.

“We are offering the Sky-X as a testbed to other companies or organisations for research and technology maturation,” Alberto Beccaro, Alenia’s head of advanced projects, told last week’s IQPC UCAV conference in London.

Longer-term plans for the Sky-X could lead to the demonstration of an operational derivative or successor air vehicle, says Beccaro.

An enhanced design would remove the current aircraft’s vertical tail surfaces and introduce thrust-vectoring control for enhanced manoeuvrability, he adds.

The system, which could be developed from 2008, could also be used to demonstrate threat avoidance and on-board mission replanning technologies, or self-adaptive flight-control software. Alenia says the latter technology would enable an aircraft to compensate for airframe damage or other system failures during flight.

Source: Flight International