Not small, but OPV’s are a stepping stone towards sUAS in the NAS, just love using that phrase!
MANASSAS, VA — (Marketwire) — 02/17/10 — Aurora Flight Sciences announced today that
the DA42M aircraft that will serve as its Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV)
prototype has arrived at its Manassas, Virginia facility.
The DA42M is a 4-place, twin-engine general aviation aircraft produced by
Diamond Aircraft in Austria. The aircraft that will become the prototype
for Aurora’s OPV was originally used by Diamond as a prototype for the DA42
Multi-Purpose Platform (MPP) development program. Over the past several
months, the aircraft has been upgraded with Austro E300 heavy fuel engines.
Aurora’s DA42M-OPV, named “Centaur”, adds an extensive suite of propriety
electronics and software that retains all of the manned mission capability
while also enabling the capability to conduct missions with no pilot
onboard. This “optionally piloted” configuration is unique to the Aurora
version of the DA42M.
“The Centaur has roughly the same payload and range performance as the MQ-1
Predator UAV,” said Aurora President John Langford, “but it has several
important advantages. First, it can be flown with a pilot onboard, which
will facilitate operation in the National Airspace System. Second, it has
two engines, which gives greater reliability and safety. Third, the
Centaur is easily reconfigurable so it can carry a variety of payloads.
Finally, it has extremely low operating costs. We see it as a crossover
product with enormous potential in many markets.”
Development of the Centaur began in August of 2009. The Preliminary Design
Review was completed last month. Aurora expects to make its first flight
in the summer of 2010 and to begin deliveries in 2011. In its manned
aircraft mode, the Centaur is intended to retain the DA42′s normal-class
FAA certification. When operated in the unmanned mode, it is expected to
fly under an Experimental certification.
The Centaur’s planned first mission is mapping the ice pack over Greenland,
as part of a NASA experiment being proposed by Harvard’s Prof. James G.
Anderson. For this mission, a removable “belly pod” housing the radar will
be installed underneath the aircraft. An optional nose pod allows other
payloads to be installed in the nose.
About Aurora Flight Sciences
Aurora Flight Sciences designs and builds robotic aircraft and other
advanced aerospace vehicles for scientific and military applications.
Aurora is headquartered in Manassas, VA and operates production plants in
Bridgeport, WV and Columbus, MS and a Research and Development Center in
Cambridge, MA. To view recent press releases and more about Aurora please
visit our web site at www.aurora.aero : www.aurora.aero .