Hummingbird hovers again

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Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) returned to the skies when the firm resumed test flight operations near Victorville in California on November 8.

Test engineers from Boeing and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) put the A160 through its paces in a 45-minute test that included hover and forward flight.

The A160 Hummingbird has accumulated more than 1,000 ground test hours and 58.5 flight hours during 32 flights. The autonomous UAV is 10.7m long with an 11m diameter rotor and will fly up to 160mph with a ceiling of 7,620m to 9,140m (and high hover capability up to 4,570m) for up to 20 hours. Boeing says operational A160Ts will be capable of performing persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; target acquisition; communication relay; and precision re-supply missions.

The current series of test flights is being conducted using a six-cylinder gasoline engine variant. Engineers will analyse the flight data and determine objectives for subsequent test flights. Meanwhile, work continues in parallel toward the first flight of the turbine-powered A160T next spring.

‘The success of this latest flight is a tribute to the hard work of the Boeing and DARPA A160 team,’ said Jim Martin, Boeing A160 programme manager. ‘This innovative unmanned aerial system continues to prove its versatility through a rigorous flight test program.’