Naval Air: Robotic Little Bird Goes To Sea


August 21, 2012: The UAV version of the MH-6 ("little bird") light helicopter has been modified to operate from ships. Recently this version (H-6U) successfully tested an automatic landing system that enables helicopter UAV to land and take off from a ship. The MH-6 has been in military service for nearly half a century. The MH-6X ("Unmanned Little Bird") is a UAV version that has been in development for over eight years.

More widely known as the civilian MD-530F, SOCOM uses the MH-6 for scouting and commando operations. The MH-6X is a 1.6 ton aircraft that, in UAV mode, can be used for scouting or delivering cargo. Still classified as a "demonstrator", Unmanned Little Bird can carry a one ton payload. This can be supplies, weapons, or sensors. The manned MH-6 stays aloft about 90 minutes per sortie but the MH-6X can, by carrying more fuel and no people, extend that to 120 minutes.

There's already a lot of competition out there for helicopter UAVs. The 1.5 ton A160T, 1.4 ton Fire Scout, and .2 ton S-100 are already in service. The Fire Scout and S-100 have earlier been equipped to operate from ships.




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