Unmanned air vehicles go organic

Earlier this month, Honeywell International Inc. completed testing of a new type of unmanned air vehicle that the Defense Department hopes to deploy in battlefield conditions for gathering surveillance and protecting troops.

The organic air vehicle (OAV), developed by Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is designed to reduce risk to soldiers and make it easier to gain intelligence.

"Their vertical takeoff and landing capabilities do not require a runway," said Ben Simmons, vice president of Honeywell's Defense and Space Electronic Systems Surface Programs. "They can hover over and stare at designated targets, providing soldiers real-time imagery via a ground station."

Honeywell's OAV is based on a 29-inch diameter iSTAR UAV developed by Allied Aerospace Industries Inc. of Newport News, Va. It has forward and downward looking video cameras that relay information to a remote ground station video terminal. It can be equipped with a variety of sensors, such as biological and mine detection sensors.

Flight tests were conducted at the Army's McKenna Military Operations in Urban Terrain site located at the Soldier Battle Lab, Fort Benning, Ga., and at Honeywell's Defense and Space Electronic Systems operation in Minneapolis, Minn.

"The success of the flight tests represent a significant development in the level of maturity of the OAV technology," said Brad Tousley, DARPA program manager in the Tactical Technology Office.

Honeywell also is developing a 13-inch-diameter OAV for DARPA's Micro Air Vehicle Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration. The backpack-sized system, which could be carried by troops in the field, is scheduled for initial flights in December.

With 2003 prime IT contracting revenue of $436.8 million, Honeywell ranked No. 23 on Washington Technology's 2004 Top 100 list, which measures federal contracting revenue.

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