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GoldenEye 80 UAV Gearing Up For Second Flight

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GoldenEye 80 UAV Gearing Up For Second Flight

GoldenEye 80 UAV Gearing Up For Second Flight
By Jefferson Morris/NetDefense

Aurora Flight Sciences' GoldenEye 80 ducted-fan unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is gearing up for its second flight near Manassas, Va., following its first brief flight just more than a month ago.

The second flight is expected to take place within the next week, according to Dale Ward, business development manager for Aurora Flight Sciences. "We're still working on the vehicle and we should be flying it any time soon," Ward said.

The first flight on Nov. 4 was a brief hover in which the aircraft popped up and then came back down. Future flights will involve the transition to dash mode, in which the aircraft pitches over and flies with the aid of pivoting wings.

The company maintains that the Nov. 4 flight marked the first flight of a ducted-fan UAV powered by a heavy-fuel engine. The military is pushing UAV makers to create small UAV engines that use military standard nonvolatile diesel fuel, allowing for a reduction in the number of fuels that have to be taken to the battlefield.

Part of DARPA OAV II program

The 150-pound GoldenEye 80 is 65 inches tall and is equipped with a video camera, infrared camera and a laser rangefinder/tracker/designator. It features Athena Technologies' GuideStar 111m miniaturized flight control and navigation system, which allows the UAV to fly autonomously and avoid obstacles through dynamic rerouting around buildings and other structures.

The GoldenEye 80 is being developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Organic Air Vehicle (OAV) II program, along with a rival system being developed by Honeywell. Honeywell's OAV II aircraft is a follow-on to the UAV the company developed in DARPA's original OAV I program.

The OAV II program is maturing the technology of ducted-fan UAVs and preparing it for possible inclusion in the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program as the Class II UAV, which would support small units on tactical missions. FCS UAVs come in four classes, ranging from Class 1 backpack-portable systems up to Class IV, for which the Army has chosen Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout.

DARPA chose to postpone the expected downselect between Honeywell and Aurora in OAV II and has funded both teams to proceed into Phase III of the effort (DAILY, June 14). Phase III is set to last through February 2009, when the technology will transition to the Army.

In parallel, FCS Lead Systems Integrator (LSI) Boeing-SAIC is funding the development of Piasecki Aircraft Corp.'s Air Scout for the Class II UAV (DAILY, July 27, 2005). DARPA's OAV II will go head to head with the LSI's Class II vehicle in a competitive flyoff before a final choice of UAV is made for FCS.

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