Warplanes: Tilt-Rotor UAV


December 6, 2011: A South Korean firm has presented a prototype of a tilt-rotor UAV, and expects to conduct test flights next year and begin production in three years. The American firm Bell Helicopter developed a similar UAV in the 1990s. This aircraft, called Eagle Eye, was 5.56 meters (18.25 feet) long and with a wingspan of 7.37 meters (24.2 feet). The South Korean UAV is a little smaller, has a higher cruise speed (500 kilometers an hour versus 360 for Eagle Eye) and about the same endurance (5-6 hours). Eagle Eye had a payload of 91 kg (200 pounds), more than enough for day/night vidcams. The South Korean version can operate 200 kilometers from its base (a ground station or ship.)

Bell was unable to find a buyer for Eagle Eye and made deals with foreign firms whereby they could use the Bell design to create their own similar UAVs, as long as Bell got a share of any future sales. Tilt-rotor aircraft, like the American V-22, are very expensive to maintain, and it's unclear if a tilt-rotor UAV would have much demand. While tilt-rotor aircraft can hover like a helicopter, then tilt their two engines and fly like a fixed wing aircraft, helicopter UAVs have been much less successful (in getting sales) than fixed wing ones.



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