General Atomics completes test of small UAS aerial recovery system
The towline for last month’s test was deployed from a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-20 Avenger UAS over Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.
The aerial recovery concept utilises a towline and smart end feature, which serves as a beacon and mechanical interface for aerial recovery.
The SUAS/ALE calculates its precise position relative to the smart end feature for navigation into towline intercept, followed by a manoeuvre to capture the end feature.
Once secure on the towline, the SUAS/ALE folds its wings and stops its engine to transition into a passively stable towed body. A podded hoist aboard the capital ship reels in the SUAS/ALE to a captive carriage state where the two platforms return to base together.
During this demonstration, a hoist from Breeze-Eastern equipped with GA-ASI’s smart end feature was integrated into Avenger’s payload bay. While in flight, the towline was deployed away from Avenger to the optimal distance for aerial recovery.
The smart end feature was able to wirelessly transmit its position back to Avenger, confirming its ability to transmit the data to a nearby SUAS/ALE for aerial recovery. The smart end feature’s deployed position correlated to GA-ASI’s multi-degree-of-freedom finite element catenary models, confirming its potential for SUAS/ALE aerial recovery.
Beyond just captive carry back to base, the SUAS/ALE can be refuelled, recharged, and/or rearmed and then redeployed. Redeployment can occur from the host aircraft, enabling SUAS/ALEs to conduct their own orbits from airborne launch and recovery positions.
Aerial redeployment allows UAS like GA-ASI’s Avenger or MQ-9A Reaper to serve as mobile command centers for a network of SUAS/ALEs in a persistent, expansive grid for surveillance, electronic attack, enemy air defence suppression, communication pathways, or joint all-domain mobile command and control for days or weeks at a time.
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