UAVs join the jet set

An innovative jet-powered UAV developed by EADS has completed its first fully autonomous flight tests in Spain. The Barracuda experimental aircraft completed a 20-minute pre-programmed course without any control from the ground.


An innovative jet-powered UAV developed by EADS has completed its first fully autonomous flight tests in Spain. The Barracuda experimental aircraft completed a 20- minute pre-programmed course without any control from the ground, and has paved the way for a further series of tests.

According to EADS, the Barracuda demonstrator, which has been hailed as a ‘technological breakthrough’, contains many technical innovations alongside some commercial off-the-shelf components. The entire structure, including the wings, is made from carbon-fibre composites on the basis of a new patent filed by EADS. It is described as an ‘electric airborne system’ because it uses electro-mechanical actuators instead of conventional hydraulic components.

The experimental system is 8m long, with a wingspan of more than 7m and a maximum take-off weight of just over three tonnes. It is fitted with a Pratt & Whitney jet turbine that delivers 14kN thrust.

The demonstrator is designed to be a user-friendly technology platform for testing technological payloads such as the integration of a suite of sensors. These will eventually include electro-optical and infrared sensors, laser target designators, an emitter locator system that picks up radio-magnetic signals and an advanced synthetic aperture radar system.

Although it is possible that the Barracuda will not go into production as an aircraft, it is believed that by acting as a testbed it will help the European aerospace industry develop future intelligent UAVs certified to fly inside controlled airspace.