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
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
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.