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Ground Control System

By Patrick C. Miller

OCTOBER 27 – Textron Systems has not only added vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) ability to its Aerosonde unmanned aircraft system (UAS), but can also fit the entire aircraft and ground control station into a single pickup.

Earlier this month, the company completed a successful customer demonstration of the UAS—known as the Aerosonde HQ—after announcing the proof of concept design in May. Customers who own the fixed-wing Aerosonde can convert it to the HQ model with VTOL capability by buying a field-upgradable kit.

“You can literally exchange the booms with the Aerosonde HQ booms which have in them integral batteries that are completely independent of our Lycoming engine and have electric motors integrated into the booms,” said David Phillips, Textron’s vice president of small and medium-endurance UAS. “It’s a completely independent kit that can be applied or taken off in the field when you need to use it.”

The demonstration—which took place at Textron’s Unmanned Systems Service and Support Center in Blackstone, Virginia—showcased the Aerosonde HQ’s runway-independent vertical takeoff transition to horizontal flight, followed by a landing without the need for any prepositioned personnel or recovery equipment. Previously, the fixed-wing Aerosonde required a launch and recovery trailer and a separate ground control station.

“What this enables us to do is go much smaller, much more expeditionary. We can lose the launch and recovery trailer,” Phillips said. “We can land the Aerosonde anywhere without any prepositioned assets or resources.”

Although the Aerosonde has been used for years by the U.S. military, Textron Systems has also sold it to the oil and gas industry for commercial operations, training and qualifying crews in the company’s schools.

“We’ve developed the Aerosonde HQ primarily for the commercial market because it enables you to go out with an extremely expeditionary system,” Phillips noted. “We demonstrated operation of the system from a vehicle-mounted control station.”

According to Phillips, the entire system has been integrated into a Ford F250 pickup.

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