• Eurocopter has successfully test-flown an unmanned EC145. (Eurocopter)
    Eurocopter has successfully test-flown an unmanned EC145. (Eurocopter)

Eurocopter has revealed its optionally-piloted vehicle (OPV) program, by conducting demonstration flights with an unmanned EC145.

The flight at the French Air Force base in Istres last Thursday followed similar flights performed earlier in April, and included deployment of an external sling load and a mock observation mission.

“Eurocopter innovation is once again expanding the mission capabilities of helicopters, and we are ready to apply the proven optionally piloted vehicle competence in meeting customers’ needs,” explained Eurocopter Chief Technical Officer Jean-Brice Dumont.

“This latest achievement results from our company’s expertise in flight control and autopilot systems, human-machine interface, system architecture and integration.”

The remotely-piloted flights used a four-dimensional flight plan that was uploaded to the helicopter. After an automatic takeoff, the EC145 flew a circuit via pre-programmed waypoints, during which the helicopter performed a mid-route hover to deploy a load from the external sling. The EC145 continued on a return route segment representing a typical observation mission, followed by an automatic landing.

With this capability fully validated, Eurocopter believes is now positioned to pursue OPV capabilities for its product line of light, medium and heavy-lift helicopters – enabling these rotorcraft to be flown by pilots or in an unmanned mode.

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