Swiss company Unmanned Systems is showing a model of its Orca rotary-wing unmanned air vehicle for the first time here at Dubai. The Orca employs a revolutionary tip-jet propulsion method that not only improves performance in many key areas, but also overcomes many of the operational problems encountered with conventional propulsion methods.
Orca’s system employs a turbine engine rated at 215 hp that rotates with the rotor blade. The jet blows air at 700-deg C through flexible ducts to the hollow rotor blades, then blowing through angled tip nozzles to provide thrust. Reactive movement is eliminated so there is no requirement for a tail rotor, and there is no need for clutch, gearbox or transmission, significantly reducing weight.
This propulsion systems has numerous benefits, not least of which are low running costs and high availability. Despite its small size and 772-pound mtow, the Orca is designed to lift a remarkable 265-pound payload, and it can operate at up to an1,500-foot ceiling. Typical endurance on 33 gallons of fuel is 2.5 hours.
Unmanned Systems is currently testing the propulsion system on a tower, leading to a first flight for Orca scheduled for April next year. The company hopes to have the vehicle ready for market in May. There has already been significant interest from military and other agencies.
Initially the Orca is being developed as an ISR platform, carrying a FLIR Ultra Force 350 EO/IR payload as standard, but with other options available. The company highlights the ability of the UAV to operate with great reliability in desert conditions, as its enclosed propulsion system is impervious to dust and sand. Furthermore, the blowing of hot air through the hollow blades eliminates any icing issues. A typical operational system would have two air vehicles, portable ground control station and a 62-mile data link antenna.
Following close behind the ISR version will be a maritime surveillance model. A weaponized version is also being planned, to be ready in 2013. This would be a larger air vehicle with a 2,095- to 2,205-pound mtow, of which about half would be payload.