Berlin (UPI) Jul 30, 2009
The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. has resumed testing of its new Barracuda drone, following a crash of a less advanced model in 2006.
Designer EADS Defense & Security calls this unmanned aerial vehicle "the largest ever built in Europe." It was successfully tested in four autonomous flights from Goose Bay Air Force Base in Canada along preprogrammed routes over Newfoundland and Labrador. For flight safety reasons, it was monitored from a ground station.
"This powerful demonstrator widens the technological UAV product portfolio from EADS Defense & Security within the scope of our own high-performance systems," Stefan Zoller, the group's head, said in a statement. "It enables us to offer a full range of UAV products from tactical systems to complex reconnaissance and surveillance systems."
EADS does not plan to have the Barracuda enter serial production; rather, the prototype is a technology demonstrator aimed at paving the way for future EADS UAV programs such as the Talarion, a UAV with a 92-foot wingspan capable of executing reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition missions. A Talarion prototype was unveiled last month at the Paris Air Show.
With the Barracuda, EADS aims to "gain practical experience in the interoperability of unmanned systems within Network-Centric Operations conducted in line with the latest NATO criteria and in autonomous operation involving interaction with other systems," it said.
Built in Germany and Spain, this latest Barracuda is funded by EADS and, to a lesser degree, the German armed forces and the German Defense Ministry's office of technology and procurement, or BWB.
EADS says the new drone represents a significant improvement over the initial Barracuda, which made its maiden flight in April 2006 but crashed during tests in Spain that same year.
The jet-powered UAV features updated software and other systems developed under the company's Agile UAV program. "This makes the system even easier to adapt to a wide range of UAV missions," the company said in a statement.
EADS is eager to enter the quickly growing drone business. U.S. and Israeli firms currently dominate the market, with several European armed forces relying on UAVs manufactured abroad. Annual worldwide spending on drones will double within a decade to $8.7 billion, according to estimates by Teal Group, a Fairfax, Va.-based aviation consultant.
EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defense and related services. In 2008, it generated revenues of $61 billion and employed a workforce of about 118,000.
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