Vehicle to be based on Robinson R22 helicopter airframe needs to meet demanding operational specification

Tactical Aerospace Group (TAG) is flying an optionally piloted prototype of a tactical special forces vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air vehicle based on the Robinson R22-series airframe. The unmanned system is being developed under a contract placed by a US Special Forces organisation early this year. TAG says a full UAV version - designated the M2600 - will enter series production during the fourth quarter of this year for its customer and that the air vehicle will be available commercially from 2006.

California-based TAG, a division of TacTronix, says the M2600 is intended to meet a more dynamically demanding operational specification than could be supported by Northrop Grumman's RQ-8B Fire Scout or Bell Helicopter's Eagle Eye VTOL systems being developed for the US Army, Navy and Coast Guard. TAG also says the requirement was unlikely to have been met by the rival systems in the timeframe sought by the US military customer.

Marketing literature released by TAG at the Eurosatory 2004 exhibition in Paris in mid-June describes the M2600 as being configurable as either a remotely piloted vehicle or as a fully autonomous system.

The UAV guidance system is based on "one or more of GPS, radio telemetry, ground stations or satellite", the company says. "Flight plans can be changed at any moment by the ground control computer, which displays full flight data, as well as any on-board video or telemetry options. The ground control pilot can also take over flight control at any time for any procedures or manoeuvres that might require human intervention."

The ground control station and guidance systems are an evolution of hardware already developed by TAG for its M65 and M80 small tactical VTOL UAVs, developed in response to US and Latin American special force and intelligence community requirements.

TAG says the M2600 will have a cruise speed of 89kt (164km/h) and a maximum speed of 108kt. Maximum range at cruise speed is 354km (190nm). Gross weight is 654kg (1,440lb) with a maximum payload at sea level of 250kg. The main change to the R22 airframe appears to be an extended tail boom.



Source: Flight International