Aurora Flight Sciences has flown its Excalibur experimental vertical takeoff and landing unmanned combat aircraft. The subscale proof-of-principle aircraft made its first hover at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland on June 24 and Aviation Week has the story, with exclusive pictures and video (here).
Photos: Aurora Flight Sciences
The 13ft-long, 10ft-span Excalibur is a half-scale version of a VTOL UCAV designed to carry a 400lb weapons payload - four Hellfires - at speeds up to 400kt. The aircraft is the testbed for a hybrid turbine-electric propulsion system which combines a tilting 700lb thrust-class turbojet and three 12kW battery-powered lift fans.
Full-size UCAV (Concept: Aurora)
Aurora had hoped to fly Excalibur last last year, but diverted resources to completing development of its GoldenEye 80 ducted-fan VTOL tactical UAV. Although AATD and ONR have supported the program, Aurora conducted the first hover flight on its own funds.
The company plans to complete initial hover-phase testing at speeds up 20kt, but is looking for funding to modify the vehicle for medium-speed flights up to 40kt, which will involve making the aerodynamic control surfaces active. If it can secure funds, Aurora plans to build a second demonstrator for high-speed testing - one that can retract the lift fans, retract the gear and tilt the engine down.