The PHASA-35 solar-powered unmanned aircraft that completed its maiden flight recently at Woomera was fitted with a camera for ‘proof of concept’ of the sensor installation and utility, according to BAE Systems sources.
The maiden flight lasted less than an hour, but confirmed aerodynamic performance predictions and the aircraft landed in a re-flyable condition, EX2 understands. Part of the purpose of the flight was to demonstrate that it is possible to design, build and flight test a new design extremely quickly – PHASA-35 flew less than 20 months after design began.
BAE Systems has confirmed the aircraft took off under the control of a remote, human pilot but completed the flight and landing autonomously. Further flights are planned this calendar year though the company declined to say how many. It aspires to flight test a variety of communications, sensor and information processing/relay payloads for both military and civilian use. With validation of some of the PHASA-35’s systems on this initial flight test, the company now intends to pursue a number of R&D and innovation activities to enhance its payload, platform and propulsion system performance along with that of its control and autonomous systems.
BAE Systems Australia contributed to the design and development of PHASA-35, in particular to its autonomous flight control and airborne sensing technologies. These will be explored in more depth in later flight tests, says BAE Systems whose Air division in Warton, UK, is the leader in this program. The Australian subsidiary’s Melbourne-based team has developed a number of robotic and autonomous control systems that have been employed on UK operational and test UAV programs and have seen operational service in the Middle East; the UK-Australia axis will examine further technology development as well as regional market opportunities for these technologies, according to the company.