Warplanes: Long Range Helicopter UAV


October 19, 2007: For seven years, the U.S. Department of Defense has been developing a helicopter UAV that can stay in the air for over twelve hours at a time. The most recent test had this A160T Hummingbird (PHOTO) staying in the air for 12 hours, at 5,000 feet, while carrying a 500 pound load (to simulate a typical sensor package). When the A160T landed, it still had 40 percent of its fuel. The next test will be for 18 hours, with a 300 pound load. The first flight test of the Hummingbird Unmanned Aerial Vehicle took place five years ago.

The A160T is a small helicopter, able to fly under remote control or under its own pre-programmed control. The 4,000 pound vehicle has a top speed of 240 kilometers an hour, and was originally designed to operate for up to 40 hours carrying a payload of 300 pounds. Maximum altitude was to be about 30,000 feet, and its advanced flight controls were to be capable of keeping it airborne in weather that would ground manned helicopters.

The original A160 used a commercial 300 horsepower automobile engine. This enabled better control over speed, since turbines must run at nearly the same speed all the time. A piston engine can idle at 50 percent power. That control made the UAV better at what helicopters do best, just stay in one place. The A160T uses a 700 hourse power gas turbine and new gearbox. That long endurance was to translate into 4,500 kilometers range. After the first flight test, it was believed the aircraft might be ready for production by 2006. That was too optimistic. Helicopters are complex beasts, and things take longer.

Currently, a production decision is not expected for another year or two. If the Hummingbird does get into production, it will make a very useful UAV for stakeouts, watching for the enemy to make a move. The Hummingbird will also be armed, most likely with hundred pound Hellfire missiles, or 44 pound Viper Strike smart bombs.


Article Archive

Warplanes: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close