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AVID Developing New UAV Concept For Homeland Security

This 20-foot-long flying wing-shaped UAV is propelled by eight ducted fan engines and is capable of high-endurance surveillance missions at cruise altitude.
by Staff Writers
Blacksburg VA (SPX) May 04, 2006
A potential terrorist slips across the U.S. border under the cover of darkness. Unchallenged, he disappears into the night - or so he thinks. Unknown to this intruder, he's been detected all along - from 20,000 feet. And now, as he rests behind a rock, he's being watched by a 2-foot-wide unmanned aerial vehicle hovering quietly a few feet away.

Moments later the suspect is captured by federal agents alerted to his location. Mission completed; the UAV lands nearby, where it is picked up and readied for the next assignment.

This scenario is envisioned by AVID, a leading designer of unmanned aerial vehicles that is developing an innovative new, patent-pending UAV concept to fulfill two strategic homeland security missions with one platform.

The Virginia company is designing a 20-foot-long flying wing-shaped UAV - propelled by eight ducted fan engines - capable of high-endurance surveillance missions at cruise altitude. Once a target is detected from above, the UAV could release one of its engine pods in flight. This engine pod, now transformed into its own self-propelled, hover-capable vehicle, could track a target anywhere on the ground, over water, or even under bridges while the flying wing stays aloft to look for threats from the sky.

"This exciting and unconventional configuration has the potential tsurveillance is conducted," said Paul Gelhausen, chief technical officer and co-founder of AVID. "Our concept will provide an effective and reliable tool to help the Department of Homeland Security monitoour borders for people and materials that pose a threat to the security of the United States."

Each engine contains its own thrust, electrical power, aerodynamic controls and sensors in a compact package attached to the trailing edge of the flying wing. If an engine is not needed for power or for a surveillance mission, the engine could detach as a way to reduce weight and drag on the flying wing and therefore increase fuel efficiency on long-endurance missions. Just as it could descend to track suspicious activity on the gthe engine could land at a base, where it would be serviced independent of the flying wing and prepared for the next mission immediately.

"While both strategic and practical, we've also designed this vehicle to be reliable and easy to maintain," Gelhausen said. "The UAV's minimal flight controls and basic electrical system will pEach engine would essentially be a line replacement unit that can easily be serviced one at a time before the next mission rather than all engines at once like other designs. Overall, the system is expected to achieve better reliability and on-station performance than more conventional systems suchas Predator or Global Hawk."

The Department of Homeland Security is evaluating several UAVs for border security, Coast Guard and maritime missions, transportation security and protection of critical infrastructure. AVID currently is developing this unmanned airborne platform phase in partnership with NASA's Langley Research Center to meet these needs and provide a significant improvement in homeland defense capabilities through dedicated vehicles and associated sensors.

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