QinetiQ team unveils new UAV design

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) concept is based on a helicopter design to meet specific tactical needs.

A team, led by a number of recently qualified engineers and scientists from QinetiQ’s (Farnborough, U.K.) Cortex early career training scheme, has entered an innovative and highly versatile unmanned air vehicle (UAV) for the MOD’s Grand Challenge – a competition designed to encourage younger engineers and scientists to champion the development of a system with a high degree of autonomy that can detect, identify, monitor and report a comprehensive range of military threats in an urban environment.

QinetiQ’s Grand Challenge entry can take off vertically – so the operator is not exposed, and then transition into conventional flight to provide range and operational duration. This design means that, in addition to being used as a ‘conventional’ UAV, it can go into hover mode or be landed to function as an unattended ground sensor. The sensor and imaging payload can be preconfigured using a number of existing technologies to meet user requirements. It can remain on station and then take off again (unattended) and either be recovered back to base or continue to perform as a UAV or a ground sensor at another location.

Powered by twin electric motors, the airframe is said to be maneuvrable, stable, efficient, robust and durable. Designed using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, it uses tried, tested and secure communications links. A low-cost solution, it is also light-weight, easily scaleable from the current wingspan of about 1.5m, highly portable, and can be operated for long durations.

“This innovative UAV reflects our expertise in solution design. This illustrates QinetiQ’s approach to solving specific problems and very importantly demonstrates what can be achieved by enthused individuals given the freedom and support to design and apply technology,” explained Neil Irvine, managing director of QinetiQ’s Managed Services business. “Through Cortex, all parts of our business can gain access to the new talent and skills pool while the new employees quickly learn about the wide scope of QinetiQ’s business, plus can actively contribute to developing new business ideas and customer offerings.”

QinetiQ’s Cortex led team has developed the solution drawing on a wide range of skills, expertise, resources and technologies from across the company but with much of the work being carried out in their own time. The system is currently undergoing flight testing and the final demonstration trials are at Copehill Down on Salisbury Plain during August. The trials are designed to validate each entry’s ability to detect and identify real and potential threats and relay this information back to the operator to enable executive decisions to be made to mitigate them.

The Grand Challenge called for a system with a high degree of autonomy that can detect, identify, monitor and report a comprehensive range of military threats in an urban environment. It’s open to the whole U.K. science and technology base, large and small companies, research laboratories and academic science faculties.