The UK is seeking to join the US Department of Defense's vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air vehicle (UAV) demonstration programme. The move is part of a restructuring of its role in the trilateral Maritime UAV (MUAV) project, which it is conducting with Germany and the USA, say defence officials.

If talks now under way are successful, the UK would join a programme which has already resulted in the Pentagon awarding contracts to Bell Helicopter and Bombardier, under which Bell's Eagle Eye UAV and Bombardier's CL-327 Guardian drone will be integrated with the Sierra Research UAV common automated recovery system for land-based and shipboard trials next year. The VTOL UAV sea trials would precede the trilateral MUAV International Technology Demonstrator Programme (ITDP), which is being undertaken by NATO's Naval Armaments Group. The present MUAV arrangement will see the USA contribute its Tactical Control Station (TCS), while Germany is to provide the DaimlerChrysler Aerospace(Dasa) Seamos VTOL UAV demonstrator. The UK had offered the datalinks for the land-based and at-sea flight testing, beginning in the 2002 timeframe. It was to develop and provide a high integrity datalink (HIDL) for the ITDP.

The plan is now to award a one-year study contract next year, to set specifications for an HIDL, says Mike Pattison, the UK's project manager. The UK remains part of the ITDP effort.

The UK has opted, however, to seek a role in the USA's forthcoming UAV test, and has secured the funds needed to buy several TCS units and Multiple UAV Simulation Environment systems to help determine its need for a maritime reconnaissance system.

Meanwhile, it will fund a study to define what is required for full function and control of VTOL UAV take-off and landing.

Source: Flight International