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Thu, May 22, 2008

Boeing's Hummingbird Claims UAV Endurance Record

A160T Rotorcraft Flies 18.7 Hours

Boeing announced this week it successfully flew the A160T Hummingbird unmanned rotorcraft for 18.7 hours May 14-15, claiming an unofficial world endurance record for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) weighing between 1,102 and 5,511 pounds (500 to 2,500 kilograms).

"We didn't set out to establish a world record, but it was a great accomplishment," said Jim Martin, Boeing Advanced Systems A160T program manager. "This 18-hour endurance flight is the culmination of thousands of hours of systems, ground and flight testing. The aircraft performed flawlessly, flying un-refueled longer than any other current unmanned rotorcraft. Our customers are excited about this important flight, the needs the A160T fills and the many options it gives warfighters."

During the flight at the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona, the turbine-powered aircraft carried a 300-pound internal payload at altitudes up to 15,000 feet, landing with better than 90 minutes of fuel in reserve. The flight began May 14 at 2055 PDT and ended May 15 at 1536.

Boeing has submitted an application to the National Aeronautic Association, the US sanctioning body for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), to officially claim the world record. FAI establishes rules for the control and certification of world aeronautical and astronautical records.

"With its ability to operate autonomously for extremely long durations while carrying heavy payloads, the A160T is perfectly designed for a variety of military missions," said Grady Eakin, Boeing Advanced Systems director of Business Development. "The A160T's large internal bays can accommodate multiple sensor payloads, allowing it to simultaneously perform persistent intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition, communications relay, direct attack and other missions all in the same sortie. An externally mounted payload module can deliver heavy supplies or recover high-value assets with great precision."

The aircraft used in the 18-hour test was one of the A160Ts Boeing Advanced Systems is building for customers including the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the US Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and US Naval Air Systems Command. The same aircraft achieved another flight milestone May 9 by successfully completing hover-out-of-ground-effect (HOGE) demonstrations at altitudes of 15,000 and 20,000 feet.

As ANN reported, the program suffered the loss of a test aircraft near Victorville, CA in December 2007.

FMI: www.boeing.com

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