The Air Force has announced that the MLB V-Bat VTOL UAV has been selected for a Phase II SBIR award. They seek a vehicle that has an 8 ft. wingspan, 10 hour endurance, 55 lbs. gross take-off weight, and 70 mph cruise speed. The V-Bat’s combination of VTOL operational convenience, with the safety of a shrouded fan and with fixed wing duration, in a small UAV system, will revolutionize the availability and utility of local situational awareness for UAV operations from confined areas. Last year, under a DARPA contract, MLB demonstrated precise emplacement of small payloads from the V-Bat operating in hover mode under a vision-based control system.
Under the Phase II SBIR award, MLB will build vehicles and conduct a comprehensive flight test program for the V-Bat through all phases of flight, culminating in fully autonomous operational demonstrations. Brigham Young University will develop control algorithms and support flight tests. AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems will focus on preparing the system design for low-rate initial production and refine requirements through customer engagement.
There is strong mission pull for Tier II sized long endurance VTOL vehicles. The V-Bat design was originally solicited by a commercial customer for aerial mapping. MLB Company has been approached by potential customers in several government agencies and by commercial groups seeking an anti-piracy solution. The opportunity for this vehicle class is substantial and diverse, and the need is immediate.