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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Unmanned Helicopter Demonstrator flies without safety pilot

The Unmanned Little Bird Demonstrator, a modified MD 530F helicopter, flies without a safety pilot on board for the first time. (Mike Goettings photo)

From Boeing Internal News:

"The Unmanned Little Bird Demonstrator, a modified MD 530F helicopter, has completed its first unmanned flight without a safety pilot on board.

The test vehicle had flown more than 250 hours as an unmanned aerial vehicle with the safety pilot, who could take control of the aircraft at any time. The milestone flight, a 20-minute sortie at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., was completed just after sunrise on June 30.

The flight included a liftoff to a stabilized hover followed by a programmed 15-mile (24-kilometer) mission route that featured six different waypoints prior to an approach to a stabilized hover and precise landing. The ULB Demonstrator mission payload for the first flight was more than 741 pounds (336 kilograms), not including fuel weight. The aircraft could have added an additional 550 pounds (249 kilograms) of payload.

The Unmanned Little Bird Demonstrator will help develop unmanned capabilities for the unmanned version of the A/MH-6M Little Bird rotorcraft.

"The A/MH-6M manned aircraft is a combat-proven and highly versatile platform," said Dino Cerchie, Advanced Systems program manager for the ULB Demonstrator and the A/MH-6X Little Bird programs, a part of Boeing's Advanced Rotorcraft Systems organization. "Now we can enhance this helicopter's operational capabilities with a variety of integrated systems."

The test aircraft was flown the 200 miles from the Boeing facility in Mesa to Yuma as a manned aircraft prior to the unmanned flight, demonstrating its rapid deployment capability through controlled airspace."

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