By Andy Choi
Flexrotor, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is partly a helicopter and partly an airplane. Its vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has been qualified for the subsequent development phase on April 30, 2012 to provide enhanced maritime surveillance ability.
Under this flight controls component contract, Aerovel will improve the capability of Flexrotor with an upgraded propulsion system to change the flight mode from vertical to cruising. It will also ensure skillful landing in high winds and crosswinds. In August 2011, the aircraft completed its transition from horizontal to vertical flight and vice-versa.
The unique design of small UAV includes wings and a massive propeller with control features for vertical takeoff and landing. It starts with a vertical take-off, followed by excellent horizontal cruising, and then comes to a vertical landing.
Through this compactly featured Flexrotor, sailors can have excellent ship-launched, overhead capturing capability. It can also remain airborne for long duration. Flexrotor is a versatile solution providing improved maritime surveillance for the Navy. Flexrotor's inventor Tadd McGeer is carrying out phase II development with advanced features.
Unlike the usual testing in light wind, testing in windy conditions will be performed by Aerovel.
Furthermore, this Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division-sponsored initiative includes developing an autonomous servicing capability. An automatic Servicing Platform established by Aerovel will function as a maintenance bay in addition to launch and landing pad. Flexrotor can therefore function effectively even in remote environments without any human assistance.
Besides being deployed for remotely launching a UAV, the platform can also be used for potential applications like Arctic surveillance and in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as in the Navy for weather reporting.