Swiss Department of Defence Purchases the Centaur Optionally-Piloted Aircraft

Aurora Flight Sciences has declared that the Swiss Department of Defence has procured the Centaur Optionally-Piloted Aircraft (OPA) and is the first customer for the same.

Aurora's Centaur, shown here in a test flight near Manassas Virginia, can be flown in either a manned mode, an unmanned mode, or a hybrid flight mode.

The Swiss Department of Defence’ official purchase agency, armasuisse has its very own flight test center and will use the Centaur for testing Sense and Avoid equipment and new sensors needed for operating of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the total National Air Space (NAS)

Centaur has excellent operation flexibility and is an innovative kind of aircraft that can be flown in three different ways. First, it can function similar to a typical aviation aircraft, has FAA certification and a totally functional Garmin G-1000 flight management system. Within four hours it can be transformed to an unmanned aircraft, by using a totally separate UAV control system installed at the place where the copilot sits. The third mode is called the hybrid more wherein it functions as a UAV but has a crew on the aircraft.

The aircraft can be monitored using operate payloads, an onboard control station and do experiments, communicate with air traffic controllers and act as a safety observer. The robotic flight control system can be overridden by the human pilot at any point of time with both mechanical and electronic override alternatives.

Centaur is a cost-effective, twin engine, four-place quiet and high-efficiency aircraft. It consumes below 40 lbs of jet fuel each hour and can remain in the air for around one day at a time. The aircraft has high noise suppression capabilities causing the aircraft to be undetectable at heights of above 3000 ft above the ground.

The base of the aircraft will be Emmen, Switzerland. According to program manager armasuisse, Roland Ledermann, consistency, low noise and safety are the key features of the Centaur. This hybrid aircraft is exclusively suited to customer needs who desire the benefits of a remotely piloted aircraft but must also fly in skies that are crowded.

Test flights of Centaur commenced in 2010, with the first totally automatic takeoffs and landings beginning in 2011. The first production Centaur will be delivered to Switzerland in 2012.



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