On Jan. 16, 2020, Bell Flight’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) 70 unmanned aerial system flew its first beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight covering 10 miles at Choctaw Nation test site under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP).

The vehicle also completed an 18-mile flight with 60 lb of payload at Bell’s testing site near Fort Worth, Texas.

To date, the APT 70 flight test program has completed more than 120 flights. The program will continue to test vehicle endurance, range capabilities, and expand mission sets.

“Our partnership with Choctaw under the UASIPP has allowed us to push the boundaries on our eVTOL technology,” says John Wittmaak, program manager, UAS.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) and Bell Textron Inc. officials announced in December 2019 an agreement to add Bell to the CNO UASIPP team and begin testing Bell UAS on CNO-owned property in rural southeastern Oklahoma. CNO is one of nine UASIPP sites selected in May 2018.

Future missions for the CNO UASIPP team include advanced drone operations for agriculture, public safety, infrastructure inspection, safe operations over people, and weather-related missions.

BlueBird Aero Systems wins 150+ UAS order

Small, tactical unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) provider BlueBird Aero Systems has received an order from a European customer for more than 150 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS.

The WanderB-VTOL mini UAS and ThunderB-VTOL tactical UAS will be operated by infantry soldiers, armored units, artillery corps, and special forces. The contract marks the company’s largest sale of tactical VTOL UAS.

BlueBird’s UAS systems, operational in Israel and globally since 2006, have performed more than 52,000 operational sorties and open area support, as well as urban scenarios and tactical mapping on demand for military, security, disaster management, law enforcement, search and rescue, and commercial applications.

Silent Falcon adds capabilities to solar/electric sUAS aircraft

Silent Falcon UAS Technologies (SFUAS) has added options for its solar-powered, electric powered Silent Falcon E1 small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) aircraft with 20 lb payload capacity. Customer selectable options include:

  • Launch, recovery mode\
  • Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)
  • Conventional
  • Catapult launch, parachute recovery
  • 10+ hours extended flight time
  • Beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operation >100km

All SFUAS equipment and parts are designed and built in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with no Chinese content. SFUAS products, services, and support are available via GSA Contract No. GS07F248BA. SFUAS service incudes aircraft operators, data analysis, report, and storage.

Auterion, Quantum-Systems partner on VTOL sUAS

Auterion Government Solutions Inc. (AGS) and Quantum-Systems GmbH have partnered to bring the Vector and Scorpion small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) to U.S. government defense and security markets. The partnership brings together sUAS hardware with the Auterion OS open source operating system currently used on small, multi-rotor sUAS to hybrid vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) Group 2 air vehicles.

The tri-copter Scorpion offers maneuverability and hover. By configuring the fuselage with fixed wings and tail section, Scorpion becomes Vector, a fixed-wing VTOL sUAS with longer range and endurance.

Quantum-Systems command and control software on the two air vehicles integrates with the Defense Department’s Group 1 UAS requirements approved for U.S. defense and security market customers.