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ICG Risk Blog - [ COTS cruise missiles get easier yet ]

COTS cruise missiles get easier yet

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See parts one and two of "Building a COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf Technology) cruise missile."

AirScooter II, a one-man VTOL helicopter that meets the requirements of Ultralight FAR Part 103 (no pilot's license required), returns to Sikorsky's original coaxial design rotorcraft. Why is coax such a big deal? As one of our regular readers who flew rotary wing can attest, conventional helicopters are complex, tricky things to fly. Coaxial rotor designs dispense with swashplates, collective and cyclic control, offering simple flight controls via motorcycle-style handlebars without pedals or tail rotor. (A paraplegic could fly it.) The engine is also mounted vertically so that the complex right angle drive components are removed.

The AirScooter carries some 350 total pounds of useful payload at 55 knots for two hours of flight time. It will come fully assembled save for rotor blade installation and has pneumatic floats in lieu of skids. Its cost is less than $50K, cheap for a rotary wing of any kind. Not surprisingly, pre-production interest is said to span "military surveillance and mail delivery on military aircraft carriers to police agency and border patrol surveillance applications." The AirScooter is due out later in 2004.

Here's the punch line: it has a much smaller, cheaper UAV sibling using the same coaxial design in flying prototype state.

"The radio control is high-end hobby equipment… This simplified coaxial control system is more than what is required for an observation vehicle and is beyond our expectations. The control system is patent pending. The system response is almost as good as 3D R/C models but yet is easier to fly. Pilot training will be at a minimum and will not be necessary for anyone with R/C helicopter experience."

[UPDATE NOTE: The above AirScooter UAV link is no longer active; All AirScooter UAV material is now here.]

The prototype Airscooter UAV has a dry weight of 37 pounds and a payload approaching 30 pounds at 70 Fahrenheit, sea-level performance. Flight time may be up to three hours. Still earlier in the design state is an electric version to supplement this gas-powered bird.

"Side-ways flight is almost as easy as forward. All directions would be the same if it were not for the small tail fins. These fins provide visual feedback for pilot orientation and assist forward speed stability."

The lead engineer on the AirScooter UAV has over 30 years of aerospace experience with the majority of that in helicopters. "His hobby is model building with emphasis on radio controlled VTOL craft. He established the first FAI world altitude record in 1971 for radio controlled helicopters."

The glide slope to the desktop gets steeper, shorter still.

Updated February 2008

Gordon Housworth



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