Aurora Flight Sciences announced today that its Centaur optionally-piloted aircraft has successfully completed its first fully automatic landings. The tests were conducted at Warrenton, Virginia.
Aurora designed Centaur to fly as a normal manned aircraft, as an unmanned air vehicle (UAV), or in a “hybrid manned/unmanned” mode in which control may be transferred between an onboard crew and ground-based crew.
“Centaur is designed to be a very flexible, affordable and reliable aircraft system for a broad market of users. This successful flight test of the automatic landing system keeps us on schedule for deliveries in early 2012,” said Aurora CEO John Langford. Centaur is flying on a special FAA airworthiness certificate that allows flight tests to occur with UAV flight controls commanding the aircraft and a safety pilot on board, who can take control if needed. This capability is a unique benefit of the Optionally-Piloted Aircraft (OPA) design.
Centaur is based on the Diamond DA42 MPP general aviation aircraft. The twin-engine, all-composite DA42 uses jet fuel instead of gasoline and can carry four passengers. It has a maximum endurance of twelve hours in its manned mode and up to twenty-four hours in its unmanned mode.