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Unmanned helo sets endurance record

A U.S. Navy unmanned helicopter from Northrop demonstrates its flight endurance during testing.

By
Richard Tomkins
MQ-8C Fire Scout demonstrates a long range, long endurance flight part of a capability based test at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. Photo by Northrop Grumman
MQ-8C Fire Scout demonstrates a long range, long endurance flight part of a capability based test at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. Photo by Northrop Grumman

POINT MAGU, Calif., Aug. 25 (UPI) -- An MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter system has set a new flight record for itself during endurance flight testing by the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman.

The record set was 11 hours in a 150 nautical mile flight from Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif.

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The test was part of a series of capability tests used by the Navy to validate their concept of operations and previously tested performance parameters.

"Endurance flights provide a full evaluation of the MQ-8C Fire Scout systems," said Capt. Jeff Dodge, program manager, Fire Scout, Naval Air Systems Command. "We can better understand the capability of the system and look at crew tasks and interactions in a controlled environment. This will allow us to adjust operational procedures to maximize the system's effectiveness."

The MQ-8C Fire Scout is designed to provide persistent reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces. It completed developmental flight testing earlier this year and is scheduled for operational assessment later this year.

"... MQ-8C Fire Scout performance matches our model exactly," said George Vardoulakis, vice president, medium range tactical systems, Northrop Grumman, said of the test. "With adjustments, our production aircraft will have 12 hours of total endurance on a standard day.

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"This prolonged endurance gives the Navy's commanders a tremendous operational advantage Increased time-on-station and fewer launch and recovery cycles better enables the Navy's diverse missions."

In other unmanned aerial vehicle news, a number of U.S. Army units have received a payload upgrade to their Raven R-11B Small Unmanned Aircraft System.

The upgrade to the hand-launched system involved replacing the Raven's fixed camera with a gimbal system camera for easy 360-degree surveillance.

In addition to the 360-degree view the Gimbal offers, its infrared capabilities are now more efficient.

The Raven is made by Aerovironment, which also makes the EQ-20 Puma AE system.

Aerovironment said Monday that it has received 10 U.S. Army orders since May for their sustainment. The orders are worth $47.1 million.

"Sustaining the Army's large fleet of Raven and Puma AE systems ensures that soldiers continue to have the most effective, reliable and adaptable small UAS available to support them wherever and whenever required," said Kirk Flittie, vice president and general manager of AeroVironment's UAS business segment. "These contracts assure that American soldiers can continue to rely on our combat-proven solutions to deliver powerful insight, on-demand, that helps them operate more safely and effectively."

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