Dutch NLR to build unmanned helicopter facility

The 80-kg craft will be capable of flying for 60 minutes with a payload of 30 kg.

Shepherd UV Online has reported that The Netherlands' National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) has announced that it is developing a facility for unmanned helicopter research. The facility called FURORE (facility for unmanned rotorcraft research) will consist of an unmanned helicopter (RUAV or rotorcraft unmanned aerial vehicle) with two onboard control systems, each with its own data link and ground station. This will allow the helicopter to execute a flight fully automatically. The helicopter will execute a flight plan based on preset GPS coordinates, flying speeds and heights and maneuvers. In case of problems, the unmanned helicopter will fly "home" and land by itself.

The helicopter will be a Geocopter GC-201 equipped with two turbine engines. It will weigh approximately 80 kg/176 lb and be capable of flying for at least 60 minutes with a 30-kg/66-lb payload (excluding fuel). One of the two control systems for FURORE will be supplied by Delft Dynamics, a company with whom the NLR intends to conduct future research in the area of automatic flight control. The NLR expects that the helicopter will be available for delivery in the last quarter of this year.

In civilian settings, the helicopter will be able to take over duties normally performed by ground personnel or by manned helicopters, such as inspecting pipelines and dikes, monitoring traffic and events, and providing support for emergency services. Benefits include lower costs, less harm to the environment, and fewer safety risks for personnel. Defense could deploy unmanned helicopters to protect military personnel on peace-keeping missions or for marine uses.

The first FURORE test flights will take place at the NLR site in Noordoostpolder in the autumn of 2008.

Information: www.shephard.co.uk/UVOnline/Default.aspx?Action=-187126550&ID=b32de4c2-a650-48f3-bbcf-375eceeaa775