BAE Systems, in partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has completed the first successful test flight of its small, electric-powered Coyote unmanned aircraft.
The system was deployed in midair from a 3ft-long sonobuoy dropped from a P-3 aircraft.
The flight, which lasted 49 minutes, marks a milestone in the development of the Coyote for military uses and scientific research.
Initially funded by the US Navy, the Coyote weighs 13lb and has a 58in wingspan. During freefall, the system is designed to emerge from a sonobuoy, unfold its wings, then begin a directed flight path.
Equipped with sensors or cameras, it can perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions while the host aircraft remains in safe airspace.
NOAA funded the test flight, using its WP-3D Orion aircraft, to explore the Coyote’s potential use in weather research. Future testing will assess the system’s suitability to be dropped into a hurricane or tropical storm to measure wind speed and other data critical to forecasting.
‘Small unmanned aircraft systems are important tools that can help improve our understanding of the environment,’ said Lt. Cmdr. Nancy Ash, NOAA manager for the Coyote project. ‘The Coyote has demonstrated the potential to provide researchers with valuable observations of high-wind environments.’