January 12, 2000:
Northrop Grumman's Vertical Takeoff and Landing UAV Completes Successful, Fully Autonomous First Flight
SAN DIEGO,Ca., USA ( Northrop Grumman Corp. Press Release ) -
Northrop Grumman Corporation's Integrated Systems and Aerostructures (ISA) sector announced the successful, fully autonomous first flight today of an aircraft developed for the U.S. Navy's Vertical Takeoff and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) competition.
The company's VTUAV was developed at the Ryan Aeronautical Center here, part of Northrop Grumman ISA's Air Combat Systems business unit, based in El Segundo, Calif.
Northrop Grumman's Model 379 VTUAV began unmanned vehicle test operations at the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake, Calif., with this flight, which lasted 18 minutes as planned.
The aircraft completed the flight using differential Global Positioning System-aided inertial navigation for precision navigation to multiple waypoints. The mission was initiated with the autonomous start of the Rolls- Royce/Allison 250 turbine engine upon command from the ground control station. The flight control computer then automatically checked all onboard systems.
Following a command from ground control, the vehicle took off autonomously, transitioned from hover to forward flight, and navigated toward the first course waypoint. After completing all planned waypoints, the aircraft returned to the takeoff area and completed an autonomous landing aided by its onboard radar altimeter system. More extensive flight tests, including envelope expansion and additional autonomous navigation missions, are planned to continue through contract
award, expected by March 1.
``The VTUAV on its first flight performed essentially as predicted based on the 15,000 simulations conducted in collaboration with the NASA Ames Helicopter Directorate using data from the fully instrumented manned flight test program,'' said Tom Riley, VTUAV chief engineer.
Northrop Grumman, together with Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, Elmira, N.Y., and Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, Owego, N.Y., submitted its proposal in November for the VTUAV competition, which will provide an unmanned aircraft to fly from any ``air capable'' combat ship for real-time reconnaissance and targeting missions.
Northrop Grumman modified Schweizer's FAA certified model 330SP manned helicopter to provide a vehicle as part of the VTUAV system that meets all Navy and Marine Corps requirements. The services need an aircraft that can carry a 200-lb. payload while taking off vertically, flying 110 nautical miles, loitering for three hours at up to 20,000 feet and returning to land vertically in a 25-knot wind from any direction. The aircraft will be equipped with electro-optical and infrared
sensors and a laser designator that assists precision strike missions from other platforms.
In addition to the unmanned flight, the aircraft completed 39 instrumented manned test flights at Schweizer's facility, prior to being transported to the Ryan Aeronautical Center in San Diego for modifications that make the vehicle capable of operating without a pilot onboard.
Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems and Aerostructures sector, based in Dallas, Tex., is a premier aerospace systems integration enterprise. ISA has the capabilities to design, develop, integrate, produce and support complete systems, as well as airframe subsystems, for airborne surveillance and battle management aircraft, early warning aircraft, airborne electronic warfare aircraft, air combat aircraft, and commercial aerostructures.