Kevin Flynn

Boeing’s unmanned MQ-25 T1 test vehicle refueled a U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II fighter jet for the first time. The Navy and Boeing demonstrated the MQ-25’s primary mission with three aerial refueling flights in three months, also using an F/A-18 Super Hornet and E-2D Hawkeye.

“Every test flight with another type/model/series aircraft gets us one step closer to rapidly delivering a fully mission-capable MQ-25 to the fleet,” says Capt. Chad Reed, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager.

MQ-25’s two years of more than 120 hours of flight test data has been integrated into its digital models to strengthen the digital thread connecting aircraft design, production, test operations, and sustainment. Boeing is currently manufacturing the first two MQ-25 test aircraft

Honeywell introduces light drone technology

Compared with traditional drones using batteries and line-of-sight radio links, drones equipped with Honeywell’s beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) technologies can fly farther, carry more weight, avoid hazards up to 3km away, and stream video of their progress anywhere in the world.

Honeywell’s BVLOS systems are for missions where distance or terrain interfere with radio links or visual guidance. Applications include last-mile package delivery, military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, pipeline and power line inspection, search & rescue, or first responder use. The suite includes:

  • 600W and 1,200W hydrogen fuel cells
  • RDR-84K multipurpose radar
  • Inertial measurement units (IMUs)
  • UAV Satcom small, light satellite transceiver

The fuel cells operate 3x longer than batteries with equivalent output, work silently, and emit no greenhouse gases. Operators can refuel or swap hydrogen tanks in minutes, enabling more time in the air.

The RDR-84K phased-array radar steers beams electronically, with no moving parts, and requires no heavy cooling systems. It can avoid other aircraft, detect obstacles, map terrain, identify landing zones, act as an altimeter, and provide mapping for alternate navigation if GPS guidance fails.

The satellite uplink can be used to download real-time weather and traffic reports from other drones.

The BVLOS suite will allow drone designers to combine data in new ways to save weight and power.

“These are technologies that businesses have been waiting for,” says Stéphane Fymat, vice president and general manager of Honeywell’s Unmanned Aerial Systems and Urban Air Mobility business unit. “They will help make drones profitable for a world of new applications.”

Swift Tactical Systems tests VTOL UAS

American-made Swift021 VTOL UAS during endurance flight.
Photo credit AAC

Swift Engineering subsidiary Swift Tactical Systems completed more than two dozen flights at Leach Field, a high-altitude unmanned aerial system (UAS) test site in Alamosa County, Colorado, to collect data on the high-altitude density performance of the Swift021 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS.

“These positive performance tests have proven the Swift021 VTOL UAS will take-off, transition, perform with precision, and land accurately at more than 10,000ft density altitude,” says Swift Tactical Systems Vice President Alex Echeverria.

Also tested, Silvus StreamCaster radios reliably streamed video and data back to the ground station, even in challenging conditions and austere environments.

These extended capabilities are being put to use as Swift Tactical Systems continues to support The Bahamas Ministry of National Security in extending their UAS program to support their police, defense force, and customs operations.

The all-electric Swift021 offers up to 2 hours’ flight endurance and 40+ miles operational range.

Food, medical drone delivery milestone

ANRA Technologies completed 100 flight hours delivering food and medicine beyond visual line of sight in India. The drone transported products from Swiggy, India’s largest online food ordering and delivery platform, as part of a project awarded by the Directorate General of Aviation (DGCA) and Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA).

The project flew more than 350 sorties, transiting 1,100km without incident. Flights consisted of multirotor drones operating ANRA’s SmartSkies CTR and SmartSkies DELIVERY software. ANRA recently closed a multi-million-dollar funding round led by a consortium of global investors that will accelerate development and continued expansion of its software portfolio and grow its international team.

Sicura EG-1100 and Anzen EG-1250 with Sky Power engines.
Photo credit: Sky Power

UAS Global Services expands fleet

Texas-based drone design, operations, and consultancy firm UAS Global Services (UAS-GS) has added two unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to its fleet. The Anzen EG-1250 is a dual-engine, dual-rotor, heavy-lift, long-range, multi-purpose Group 3 platform. Its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 250 lb (113kg), with 75 lb (34kg) of payload. Cruise speed is 65kts with up to 6 hours’ endurance.

Ireland-based UAV Evolution Ltd. commissioned UAS-GS to develop the dual rotor platform initially to support offshore oil & gas clients in challenging environmental conditions.

The second UAS, the Sicura EG-1100 3rd-generation single-rotor helicopter, is available to external customers. MTOW is 55 lb (25kg), endurance up to 3.5 hours using an internal combustion engine or a flight time of 1 hour in electric mode, 15 lb (7kg) payload capacity, and cruise speed of 55kts.

German engine manufacturer Sky Power GmbH manufactures the Anzen EG-1250’s electric-gas dual engines. The primary engine is the Skypower SP-180 SRE rotary engine; the secondary engine is a NeuMotors 12030/5.5 30kW electric motor that can power the aircraft or power boost the gas engine.

The EG-1100 is available with an electric motor or Sky Power’s SP-110 TS ROS two-stroke internal combustion engine modified for flight.

AAC launches hybrid multirotor unmanned aircraft system

HAMR’s 35cc piston engine powers a 2,000W generator.
Photo credit: AAC

After four years of development, Hampton, Virginia-based Advanced Aircraft Company (AAC) launched its Hybrid Advanced Multirotor (HAMR) unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

HAMR’s hybrid propulsion system uses an electronic fuel injected 35cc single-piston gas engine driving a 2,000W generator to power six brushless DC electric motors and a backup battery. This configuration enables up to 3.5 hours of flight, 6x longer than a conventional battery-powered multirotor aircraft.

HAMR systems are designed and built to crewed aircraft standards to enable ISO AS9100 certification and employ line replaceable units (LRUs) for rapid in-field servicing. AAC aircraft are NDAA Sec. 848 compliant and built in the U.S. with qualified traceable parts.

Recent investments bring the company’s total funding to more than $2 million, enabling AAC to scale up manufacturing.

AAC is one of seven finalists in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge.

Team AAC placed first in the competition, taking home a cash prize of $100,000. Additionally, the company won three Best-in-Class Awards for Endurance, Innovation, and First Responders Choice, totaling an additional $35,000.