First Centaur OPA delivered to Swiss DoD
The Swiss Department of Defence (DoD) has taken delivery of the world’s first production Centaur Optionally-Piloted Aircraft (OPA) system from Aurora Flight Sciences. The Centaur OPA, flown by an onboard crew in FAA Normal Category, departed the Manassas Regional Airport in Virginia on November 26 and arrived at the Emmen Military Airfield in Switzerland on November 28.
The Centaur OPA is capable of being flown in both manned and unmanned configurations. A third flight configuration, the hybrid mode, allows for control from the ground with a safety pilot onboard the aircraft. According to Aurora Flight Sciences, the capability to fly both manned and unmanned missions creates a system with optimal flexibility for the operator. The hybrid flight mode facilitates flight operations that are identical to an unmanned aircraft by utilising a safety pilot to watch for other aircraft or take over control in an emergency.
The aircraft will now undergo equipment installation and the system’s Ground Control Station will be prepared during 2013. Initial projects include new sensors as well as sense and avoid equipment required to operate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the entire Swiss National Air Space (NAS). Following hybrid mode flight tests in Virginia and Switzerland, the ability to operate Centaur unmanned is expected to be achieved in March 2013.
Centaur is based on the successful Diamond Aircraft DA42MNG, a four-seat twin-engine heavy fuel aircraft specifically designed to deploy airborne sensors. Centaur is the world’s first OPA to retain its FAA and EASA Normal Category Airworthiness Certification in the manned flight mode with the ability to provide its full functionality for unmanned flight. The conversion between manned and unmanned flight modes takes four hours to complete. Centaur is able to carry its own ground control station, making it the world’s first self-deployable UAS.
Dr. John Langford, Aurora Flight Sciences’ chairman and CEO, said: ‘Centaur is an ideal platform for Switzerland’s initiative to develop new technologies that will enable UAV operations in the Swiss National Air Space. Coupled with our recent selection by the US Navy for the AACUS programme and by DARPA and Raytheon for the PCAS programme, Centaur establishes Aurora as the industry leader in Optionally-Piloted Aircraft technology.’
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