AUSA NEWS: Textron offers aerosonde for future tactical drone program
Textron Photo systems
Textron Systems is offering a next-generation version of its Aerosonde hybrid quadcopter drone for the military’s highly anticipated future tactical unmanned aerial system program, company executive said ahead of Association of the United annual conference States Army.
The company plans to offer an upgraded version of its Aerosonde HQ platform – which features a runway-independent configuration that uses a hybrid quadrotor for vertical take-off and landing – which has been widely used by the military, said Wayne Prender, senior vice president of air systems at Textron.
This new version was “designed with feedback from soldiers and reflects our intimate understanding of how these systems are used,” Prender said Oct. 6 during a media call with reporters.
The Future Tactical UAS program is intended to replace the Army’s RQ-7B Shadow – which is built by Textron – in its ground combat teams. The system will be a low and medium altitude aircraft with modern data links, electro-optical / infrared sensors, data encryption, unmanned team capabilities and the ability to operate autonomously, according to the executive office. of the army’s aviation program.
The military is pursuing two tracks for systems, called Increment 1 and Increment 2. Textron plans to deliver its legacy Aerosonde – which has more than 500,000 hours of combat operations under its belt – for Increment 1 and its new version. generation for Increment 2.
Textron was recently informed that it was selected as a qualified bidder by the military to submit bids for the program, Prender said. Proposals for Increment 1 are expected on October 15 and an award is expected in January 2022. Offers for Increment 2 are expected on October 22, with an award scheduled for June 2022, he added.
“The scope of Increment 1 is to provide a prototype system that will go through evaluation. After a successful evaluation of this system, they expect to procure eight systems which will be delivered and introduced to brigade combat teams, ”he said. “Increment 2 will last approximately two years and this system is intended to be the complete registration and delivery program…  systems for brigade combat teams and other units.
According to a Textron white paper, the Aerosonde hybrid quad – which operated in a pay-for-service business model – has a 10-hour battery life with multiple electronic warfare and communication relay payloads and a speed of 45 to 65 knots. Naval Air Systems Command, Special Operations Command and the Air Force have used the product under such a model, Prender said.
“These contract vehicles allow us to operate in a variety of austere, real and mission-centric locations,” he said. “He informed our reliability. He informed our sustainability. … [It has] reduces costs and increases the efficiency by which our system can be operated.
The next-generation aerosonde will feature several enhancements including increased payload capacity, endurance and aircraft performance, based on soldiers’ feedback. However, Prender declined to share specific details, citing the competitive nature of the FTUAS program.
“This new version is a scaled-up version of our current platform and will provide the military with increased performance and growth for its record goal program,” he said.
Aerosonde was designed with ease of use in mind, he said.
“Our system does not require hands or supports for launch and recovery,” he said. “You just have to set it up, step aside, press a button and the system takes off vertically, goes into flight and moves away to perform its mission. This allows us to minimize the number of soldiers and operators we need, reducing not only the size of equipment for future tactical UASs, but also the manpower required to operate the system.
The aircraft will use the standard 8 propellant fuel that the military already uses, he noted. In addition, it will be transportable via Chinook, Black Hawks and land vehicles such as the Humvee and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
This “reduces the logistical footprint and increases the agility with which our system can be used,” he added.
Prender noted that Textron was part of what he called a military-led “buy, fly and inform” effort to gather feedback from soldiers on the Aerosonde platform and systems from other vendors. The planes were put into the hands of troops and operated in various scenarios at locations such as Fort Polk, Oklahoma; Yakima Training Center, Washington; and Fort Benning, Ga., at the upcoming Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rodeo earlier this year.
At the time of going to press, the military had not disclosed which other companies had been selected as qualified bidders for the FTUAS program in order to National Defense.
The subjects: Robotics, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Army News