Watch the march of the Hummingbirds!

by Craig Hooper on March 17, 2010

For all the whining about how America isn’t funding cutting-edge rotary wing research, a few new rotary-wing UAV offerings look, ah, well cutting edge.

Take Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird (YMQ-18A).  This company-funded program has moved with lightening speed, and the fact this platform initially used a cheap off-the-shelf Subaru auto engine should be enough to win the heart of any tough-minded defense reformer.

And then there’s the string of great performances:

On May 9, 2008,  theA160T demonstrated its ability to hover out of ground effect (HOGE) at 15,000 feet to meet its DARPA milestone. It then su

rpassed the milestone during the same flight by repeating the HOGE at 20,000 feet altitude. A week later, starting the night of May 14, the A160T demonstrated its un-refueled endurance capabilities with an 18.7 hour flight, landing with over 90 minutes of fuel still on board. It was the longest un-refueled flight of any rotorcraft, and the FAI hasawarded Boeing the official endurance record in the 500 kg to 2,500 kg autonomously controlled UAV class for the flight.

With SOCOM already on the record as wanting ten Hummingbirds, Boeing isn’t waiting for a larger contract.  Instead, the company is building more than 30 of these new platforms–obviously Boeing execs are anticipating demand from the field AND are rather confident that Hummingbirds can fly the rotors off their nearest rival, the Fire Scout.

At a minimum, the Hummingbird has set the bar high.  We’ll see if Lockheed or anybody else can beat it.   But I’ll wager we’ll be seeing this at sea–and perhaps on some LCS platforms–before long…


{ 1 comment }

Carlton March 25, 2010 at 12:18 pm

The industry has been crying and telling lies to get even more money. The CH-53K now in development will lift twice as much as the CH-53E. Isn’t that innovative progress, or must rotorcraft have new funky visible bells and whistles to qualify?

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