An Australian company has won a $4.5 million contract to supply engines for small UAVs in the USA.
Perth-based Orbital Corporation secured the deal to develop and manufacture a new unique Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) for a specific small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS). The name of the customer remains confidential.
The development order follows the completion in 2012/13 of two contracts – worth over $10 million – to supply HFE engines and spare parts to Textron System’s AAI Corporation in the United States for use in a SUAS developed with AAI's Australian division, Aerosonde.
“This is another step on the road to reinventing Orbital into a company that manufactures high value systems and secures recurring revenue from the application of intellectual property and know-how developed since the early days of Orbital,” said CEO Terry Stinson.
“We were already one of the world leaders in two-stroke engine design and we are now developing expertise in the design of high-durability, lightweight engines.”
Orbital’s SUAS success has been credited to its ability to better resolve the challenge of spark-igniting heavy fuels such as kerosene.
Originally developed for the automotive industry, Orbital’s FlexDITM technology provides fuel preparation with very small fuel droplet size to enable spark-ignition engines to run on kerosene-based fuels such as JP5 or JP8.
Design, development and validation of the new engine will be done at Orbital’s laboratories in Balcatta, WA, through this year and 2014.
The first engines will be produced at Balcatta; however, to support the anticipated growth in engine production, the company plans to develop engine assembly, testing and technical support facilities in the USA.