Airbus 'Sagitta' Unmanned Demonstrator Makes First Flight

 - July 20, 2017, 3:20 PM
A quarter-scale demonstrator of the Sagitta flying wing accomplished its maiden flight in South Africa. (Image: Airbus Defence)

A quarter-scale demonstrator of the Sagitta jet-powered unmanned aircraft system flew for the first time on July 5, Airbus Defence announced on July 18. The flying-wing aircraft flew autonomously for about seven minutes at a test site in Overberg, South Africa, the manufacturer said.

Propelled by two 300N (Newton) jet engines, the 1:4 scale carbon fiber composite demonstrator measures 3 meters by 3 meters and has a maximum takeoff weight of 150 kg (330 pounds), according to Airbus Defence. Its maiden flight marked the completion of the first test phase of the Sagitta research project, which also involved extensive ground testing.

The former EADS Cassidian business, later combined into Airbus Defence, launched the Sagitta project in 2010, working with the German Aerospace Centre DLR and technical universities in Germany. Airbus Defence has made available facilities at its Military Air Systems Centre in Manching, Germany, to integrate technologies on the demonstrator. Earlier plans called for a first flight in 2014.

“With Sagitta’s first flight, we have proved just how successful a cooperation between industry and academic partners can be in the area of basic research,” said Grazia Vittadini, Airbus Defence and Space head of engineering. “We are increasingly shifting our focus toward these kinds of innovative concepts, in particular for the development of UAVs, so that we can develop products quickly and efficiently for a growing market.”