UAVs launched from balloons

Dec. 23, 2011 at 9:52 AM
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D., Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Small sensor-carrying unmanned aerial vehicles were launched at altitudes of as much as 57,000 feet from an aerostat in an ADD program tests in Arizona.

Raven Industries said that in the demonstration by its subsidiary Aerostar International, in support of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Vehicle Research Section, Close-In Cover Autonomous Disposable Aircraft vehicles launched from the balloon were to come to rest just feet from their landing zone.

"The (Autonomous Deployment Demonstration) balloon support operation is very simple and well-developed," said Mike Smith, senior aerospace engineer at Aerostar International. "The preflight checks, balloon inflation, launch and tracking operations can be carried out by two people in one vehicle from almost any remote location."

The tests were conducted at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona.

Raven Industries said the ADD program's objective is to launch the small, sensor-equipped unmanned aerial vehicles from a hand-launched balloon or an aircraft at altitude.

In the demonstration, a Tempest UAV was attached to wing-mounted pylons on an Aerostar balloon and released at nearly 60,000 feet. The Tempest flew to a designated drop zone and released the two CICADAs it was carrying.

The CICADAs flew autonomously to a "programmed target waypoint."

"The CICADA allows for the low-cost delivery of multiple precision-located sensors without placing the warfighter in harm's way," said Chris Bovais, NRL's flight test coordinator and engineer.

Raven Industries said tactical, hand-launched balloons create an inexpensive way of launching the small CICADAs.

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