US AFRL's Ultra LEAP UAS in flight demo
The US Air Force Research Laboratory’s Center for Rapid Innovation (CRI) has completed a two and a half-day continuous flight demonstration of the Ultra Long Endurance Aircraft Platform (Ultra LEAP) UAS.
The initial flight test was carried out between 9 and 11 December at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Subsequent flight tests will demonstrate increased levels of flight endurance.
Ultra LEAP is a fully automated UAS with autonomous take-off and landing capabilities designed for extended ISR missions. Its secure, easy to use navigation employs anti-jam GPS with full global operational access via a satellite-based command and control and high-rate ISR data relay link.
Developing Ultra LEAP from concept to first flight took less than ten months, and the system could be ready for operational fielding as soon as 2020. The UAS employs many of the subsystems and lessons learned from AFRL’s prior LEAP programme, a UAS that supports missions up to 40 hours. To date, LEAP has completed more than 18,000 combat flight hours and demonstrated one of the lowest mishap rates and smallest mission crew size of any operational UAS in its class. CRI employed the same strategy in both efforts of converting existing aircraft into ISR platforms.
Going forward, parallel AFRL-CRI efforts will focus on UAS operations with short take-off and landing distances to support deployments at non-traditional locations.
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