Airbus and Schiebel become first to test helicopter and drone ‘joint flight’


 The Airbus H145 and Schiebel S-100 drone

Airbus and Austrian defense firm Schiebel have successfully tested a joint flight between a helicopter and a remotely-piloted drone for the first time in Europe.

The manned unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capabilities were demonstrated between a H145 helicopter and a Camcopter S-100 drone, at the highest level of interoperability (LOI°5).

The companies carried out test flights with the support of the Austrian Armaments and Defence Technology Agency. The two aircraft flew different scenarios including a mission to detect hidden objects.

The drone was controlled and piloted by an operator sitting in the helicopter. During the flights, the control was also temporarily handed over to a ground-based control station by the pilot in order to simulate the return of the manned helicopter for refueling.

MUM-T LOI 5 is full control of the drone, including its take-off and landing. LOI 1, the lowest level, is the indirect receipt and /or transmission of sensor data obtained by the drone to the manned aircraft.

During the test, the challenges of data transfer interference and electromagnetic compatibility of the drone with the helicopter, as well as the integration of a complete mission planning and control system into the helicopter’s architecture were successfully managed.

The drone’s mission planning and control system was provided by Schiebel. The next step will be to optimize the human machine interface based on a thorough analysis of the crew workload using the results of the flight tests.

Mark Henning, program manager at Airbus Helicopters, said, “Manned-unmanned teaming multiplies the capabilities of both systems.

“Smaller UAS [unmanned aerial systems]with vertical take-off and landing capabilities can, for example, fly around obstacles as trees or buildings closer than a helicopter could. They are able to explore unknown territory and deliver information to the helicopter crew which is operating from a safe position and which can then step in with the helicopter’s superior effects, having received a clear picture from the UAS.

“Our airborne MUM-T management system will become a highly attractive feature for our entire product range including the NH90, NFH, and the Tiger together with the H145 as it adds an extremely valuable operational capability. The MUM-T capability can be implemented in any kind of helicopter and can interact with all types of unmanned systems, in particular our new VSR 700 UAS.”

April 25, 2018

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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