Perhaps wishing to avoid the processions of missed first flight target dates that have recently befallen other manufacturers, BAE Systems is now keeping its own counsel as to when it expects to fly the Mantis medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle demonstrator.
Mantis was originally due to be flown in the first quarter of 2009, then by the end of the second quarter. The air vehicle, however, remains stolidly attached to the ground, and the manufacturer is being circumspect as to a revised flight schedule.
“Progress continues with Mantis ground trials however a date for first flight will not be confirmed until both Industry and the Customer are satisfied that sufficient ground based testing has taken place,” says a company executive.
"Testing on fully autonomous unmanned systems requires a very different approach and testing regime to traditional manned platforms. The system will be comprehensively and extensively "flown" on the ground for many hours. This thorough and robust testing activity is the major stepping stone needed to ensure that the system progresses into its flight testing phase in a safe and low-risk manner,” the executive comments.
Ground work on the Mantis is being carried out at the Woomera test range in Australia prior to its initial flight. The air vehicle was transported to the test range by RAF Boeing C-17. Had the original schedule been adhered to, the Mantis would likely now be on its way back.
The Mantis is a joint British Defense Ministry and industry funded program.
Picture Credit Douglas Barrie/AW&ST