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The first of Frontier Systems’ two A160 rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is ready to conduct its first flight as soon as weather conditions become favorable and final ground runs are complete.
“”They are looking to conduct our first flight in the next month,”” a program official told Defense Daily last week. “”Our main issue is the wind. Sometimes it gets up to 30 knots during the day, and that is not good for a first flight,”” The goal of the A160 program is to develop a surveillance rotorcraft capable of carrying a 300 to 500 pound payload with an endurance of over 40 hours, an unrefueled range of more than 2,300 miles and a top speed of about 160 mph.
The A160 UAV uses a new rotor system that utilizes a patented hingeless, rigid three-blade rotor with low tip speeds and low disk loading for increased endurance. Its carbon composite blades are stiff and tapered from the rotor head to their tips. Conventional helicopters are fitted with flexible blades and must operate at 100 percent of their revolutions per minute in all flight regimes. As a result, the aircraft can be fuel inefficient at certain speeds. The A160, on the other hand, can slow down its rotor to as little as 40 percent of its maximum RPM, making the UAV much more fuel efficient. The lower tip speeds also make the UAV very quiet.
The A160’s airframe is very aerodynamic in shape and fitted with retractable landing gear to aid in signature reduction.Given the projected long range, high endurance, vertical takeoff and landing capability and stealthy characteristics of the A160, a number of services as well as other government agencies have taken a hard look at the program.
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