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Wed, May 31, 2006

Sea Scout UAV Completes Its First Auto-Landing Test

Unmanned Seaplane Makes A Splash

Representatives with Oregon Iron Works, Inc. told ANN Tuesday the defense systems provider recently completed a successful flight test of the Sea Scout unmanned seaplane in southeast Texas. The flight test included two completely autonomous water landings.

"Our research indicates this is the first time a seaplane has ever been auto-landed in the United States," said Josh Pruzek, program manager for the Sea Scout. An onboard LADAR provided altitude and water surface data to the autopilot during the landing approach and touchdown. "Both landings were picture perfect -- as good as they get," said Pruzek.

Under development for nearly two years, the Sea Scout air vehicle is the result of a Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) sponsored Phase III Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract. The aircraft was flown at a gross weight of 300 lbs, and carried 25 pounds of ballast in order to simulate a payload. A 38-hp Wankel rotary engine powers the UAV.

Carrollton, TX-based Geneva Aerospace is OIW's technology partner in the development of the air vehicle. Geneva supplied their flightTEK(R) avionics and VACS(TM) guidance and control software necessary to fly the plane. Geneva leveraged their core auto landing technology -- developed under a separate NAVAIR SBIR program -- which has been demonstrated in land-based tests earlier this year.

While seaplane technology is not new, there has been little development work in terms of new design in the last half century. OIW believes seaplanes have a viable position in the modern Navy and are developing the craft for EO/ISR and communications relay missions.

The Sea Scout is a spiral development program intended to provide the Navy with a ship-based unmanned asset that minimizes the need for complicated launch and retrieval gear such as catapults and recovery nets.

"With so much of the earth's surface covered in water, utilizing that surface for take off and landing opens up a tremendous opportunity for unmanned aircraft that previously could not have been supported," Pruzek said. 

The next steps for OIW include refining the air vehicle aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, as well as expanding the operating envelope of the aircraft, both on the water and in the air.

FMI: www.oregoniron.com, www.genaero.com

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