Dassault has just completed the first fully autonomous flight of its AVE-D experimental stealthy unmanned aircraft - almost eight years after its first flight. The June 30 flight involved a completely automated sequence - the subscale UCAV technology demonstrator leaving its parking spot, taking off, maneuvering, landing and returning to its parking spot autonomously - all under the watchful eye of its French customer, the DGA defense procurement agency.
Photo: Dassault Aviation
Dassault calls the flight a key milestone in the development of technology for the European Neuron full-scale UCAV technology demonstrator, which is to fly in 2011. The subscale AVE vehicles were conceived by Dassault as steps along the way to a full-size UCAV.
The 50-kg AVE-D was the first stealthy UAV to fly in Europe, back in July 2000. It was followed by the larger, 500-kg AVE-C, its tail removed to increase stealth, which first flew in June 2003 to demonstrate control of an unstable tailless UCAV. Dassault says the AVE vehicles have made several flights since 2004.