PERTH, Australia, May 25 (UPI) -- The Aerosonde small unmanned aerial system is to be powered by efficient heavy fuel engines from Orbital Corp. of Australia.
Orbital, a provider of engine and vehicle technologies and alternative fuel solutions, said the contract from AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems is worth about $4.7 million
The engines, to be used on the latest configuration of the Aerosonde, use the Orbital's FlexDI Engine Management system to enable spark ignition operation of heavy fuels such as JP5 and JP8. Use of those fuels meets U.S. Navy requirements to eliminate gasoline fuels.
The U.S. Navy and Special Operations Command recently contracted AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems -- a U.S. company and subsidiary of Textron Systems -- to provide SUAS fee-for-service operations using the Aerosonde.
"New ground had to be broken with AAI to meet their aggressive SUAS engine requirements, and we have been able to successfully develop and supply the demonstration engines from our Perth facility," said Terry Stinson, chief executive officer and managing director of Orbital. "This success now leads to production supply of engine systems.
"This is good example of Australian innovation, and demonstrates Orbital's engineering and product development capabilities."
Orbital said its engine for the SUAS can improve the aircraft's mission range by 40 percent or alternatively allow for greater and heavier vehicle payloads.
Aerosonde Pty Ltd. in Australia, a subsidiary of AAI, is a manufacturer of small UAS vehicles.
The number of engines to be delivered was not disclosed, but Orbital indicated deliveries would take place this year.