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HANGAR TALK uration.

"The challenge," explains Spongberg, "is to duplicate, using hardware and software, the behavior of the air vehicle when it is flown by a human. For example, we're installing and testing actuators that will move the air vehicle's flight control surfaces in response to commands from a ground con- trol station the same way they would move in response to commands from a pilot in the cockpit."

The team is also installing and validating the software that will perform critical guidance, navigation and control (GN&C) functions for the new system, he added.

Milestone Adds Momentum to Team's Plans to Begin Flight Testing by Year's End

Northrop Grumman Corporation and Bell Helicopter, a Textron company, have moved a significant step closer to being able to offer mil- itary users a vertical unmanned system that can ferry cargo – either internally or externally – over extended distances. On Sept. 17, the team applied external power for the first time to the main computers and associated subsystems for its new Fire-X medium-range ver- tical unmanned aerial system (VUAS), currently in final inte-

ROTORCRAFTPROFESSIONAL gration and test at Bell

Helicopter's Xworx rapid proto- typing facility in Fort Worth, Texas. First flight for the new extend- ed range, cargo-hauling VUAS, which is based on the FAA-certi- fied Bell 407 airframe, is expect- ed by the end of CY2010. "The Fire-X 'power-on' sequence, which validates the integrity of the electrical system, went exactly as planned," said George Spongberg, Northrop Grumman's Fire-X program manager. "It confirmed that the air vehicle's vehicle management system has been configured prop- erly, and that all of the air vehi- cle's new wire harnesses are deliv-


ering power at the right levels to all of the major subsystems." Fire-X's new wire harnesses

were produced, tested and installed by Bell Helicopter, he added.

The power-on event follows four months of Fire-X vehicle modifications at Xworx to con- vert a commercial Bell 407 from a piloted vehicle into an unmanned or optionally piloted vehicle. The modifications included not only removal of non-mission-essential equip- ment such as seats and sound insulation, but also installation of new wire harnesses and avionics required to control the vehicle in an unmanned config-

Over the next month, the Northrop Grumman/Bell Fire- X team expects to conduct pre- liminary flights of the air vehi- cle in Fort Worth in a manned configuration to validate its GN&C system, then convert it back to an unmanned system. After completion of ground testing and engine runs, the air vehicle will be ferried, in an optionally piloted configura- tion, to the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. for final testing before Fire-X's first demonstration flight in an unmanned configuration. Fire-X is a fully autonomous, four-blade, single-engine unmanned helicopter that com- bines the best of two proven air systems in a low cost, fast-field- ing package: the versatile reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition architecture of the U.S. Navy's MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical takeoff and land- ing tactical UAV, and the extended range, payload and cargo hauling capabilities of the

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