Intelligence: September 14, 2000


Frontier Systems (working for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has readied its A160 robot helicopter for flight tests. The aircraft weighs about 4,000 pounds and will have a range of 3,000 nautical miles and an endurance of 24-36 hours. The military wants it to be able to self-deploy to overseas conflicts. It will be about the size of a Predator unmanned drone. While the A160 is unmanned, one potential mission is to have it retrieve personnel trapped behind enemy lines. Other missions include reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, targeting weapons launched by other platforms, and radio relay. The three rotors (each seventeen feet long) are designed to provide an efficient power system that will maximize speed and range. A conventional internal combustion engine will generate 300hp. Top speed will be 140mph, and maximum altitude will be 30,000 feet. The vehicle will be able to hover at 15,000 feet. The flight test program will start next year and include two prototypes flying a total of 200 hours. Some of the avionics have been tested on a light commercial manned helicopter. The vehicle will fly itself based on a pre-programmed mission profile; a human pilot would be able to input vector controls in some missions.--Stephen V Cole


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