Australian unmanned aircraft engine reaches new heights

orbitalengine

An innovative Australian company that designs engines for unmanned aerial vehicles is carving out a successful niche in the global aviation market.

Perth-based Orbital Corporation has won a third contract from a US-based customer to develop and manufacture a new unique Heavy Fuel Engine for a specific small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) application.

The new contract will see Orbital take its patented FlexDI fuel injection system and more than 30 years of engine design experience and apply them to a clean-sheet engine design specifically to meet the new SUAS customer’s requirements.

While Orbital said details of the contract were confidential, the company said the new customer is one of the largest in the booming UAS industry and provides land and maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities worldwide.

The $4.5 million development order follows the completion in 2012/13 of two contracts worth more than $10 million to supply engines and spare parts to Textron System’s AAI Corporation in the US. The heavy fuel engine is used in a SUAS developed with AAI’s Australian division, Aerosonde.

Orbital CEO Terry Stinson said landing a second customer in the SUAS space is an important development for the company.

“This is another step on the road to reinventing Orbital into a company that manufactures high value systems and secures recurring revenue from the application of intellectual property and know-how developed since the early days of Orbital,” said Stinson.

“We were already one of the world leaders in two-stroke engine design and we are now developing expertise in the design of high-durability, lightweight engines.”

Design, development and validation of the new engine will be undertaken at Orbital’s laboratories in Balcatta, Perth, through this year and 2014.