American Dynamics Flight Systems is working on a next generation high-speed vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that can be a game changer on the battlefield, the company leader said.
“You want to get there fast and have the assets to change the battle,” Wayne Morse, president and CEO of American Dynamics Flight Systems, said in a recent interview. That change could come from his company’s AD-150 with payloads that could range from rockets to intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition, electronic-warfare or cargo.
The Army is examining VTOL as a UAS path forward. It is now participating in an Analysis of Alternatives with the Navy. Additionally, the land service has an acquisition strategy for the program of record to compete two Quick Reaction Capability contracts to vendors to deploy technology demonstrators for as long as a year, and then to choose one vendor to continue VTOL development and production.
American Dynamics is one of a number of companies with vertical lift UAS interested in the program, to include the Kaman [KAMN]-Lockheed Martin [LMT] K-Max, and Northrop Grumman‘s [NOC] Fire-X.
The 14.5 foot long AD-150 has a 17.5-foot wingspan, a maximum speed of 300 knots, and can carry a 500-pound to 1,000-pound payload.
Another effort for the company was to develop aerodynamic rotating launchers that are weight and drag optimized. The Hellfire missiles used in Afghanistan, for example, are anti-tank missiles with a huge blast radius, carried in a launcher that has a lot of drag, Morse said. To that end, the company’s new launcher effort was to make it lighter and reduce drag.
Two different launchers are optimized for the General Dynamics [GD] Hydra 70 and the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). The LH320, which weighs 24 pounds empty, can carry five Hydra 70/APKWS missiles, with a drag reduction of 80 percent. The LH-321, which weighs 45 pounds empty, can carry 13 Hydra 70/APKWS missiles, and reduces drag by 90 percent. A number of tests have been carried out on the launchers, with more to come.
The ability to take off and land like a helicopter, with the ability to cruise at high speeds, makes the UAS a potential choice for both land and sea operations, Morse said.
The carbon fiber and Kevlar composite airframe has a modular mission payload with internal bays and external stores located on the vehicle’s center of gravity. It can’t be a “one-trick pony,” he said, it must be able to do a number of things.
The aircraft has an advanced tilt-duct propulsion system, using the AH-64 Apache helicopter T-700 engine or the PW 200 engine.