Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. completed the first flight of the Excalibur Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) last month. The first flight took place at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland on June 24, 2009. Aurora anticipates a series of flying qualities and performance testing to verify low speed operations, transition modes, and high speed flight regimes in the near future. The Excalibur UAS was developed by Aurora for the US Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and the Office of Naval Research. “VTOL allows you to be runway independent and able to operate from unprepared fields.” Said Top Clancy, Aurora Vice President, Tactical Systems, “the objective scale, it will have about 400 lbs weapons load out, vehicle we see that as a pathfinder that will demonstrate the combination of vertical take off and landing and high speed.”
The vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) half-scale technology demonstrator designated ‘Tail 34’ is the first of a new class of tactical unmanned combat air vehicles developed for future tactical applications. The vehicle is powered by pivoting hybrid turbine-electric propulsion system providing both vertical lift and forward thrust for the unmanned air vehicle. The proof-of-concept vehicle uses the jet-borne vertical lift and three electric lift fans to provide attitude control and a significant fraction of hover thrust. The vehicle uses fully autonomous vehicle management and flight control systems to simplify flight handling allowing operators to focus on mission objectives.
Excalibur’s unique configuration enables both VTOL and high-speed flight modes at speeds up to 400 knots; thereby providing the Warfighter with a survivable capability for quick response weapons delivery or logistics resupply from remote, austere forward operating bases or from air cable ships operating in the littorals.