AgustaWestland completes unmanned helicopter trials

The original PZL SW-4 AgustaWestland helicopter on which the unmanned variant is based - image courtesy of AgustaWestland
The original PZL SW-4 AgustaWestland helicopter on which the unmanned variant is based - image courtesy of AgustaWestland.

AgustaWestland has completed the capability concept demonstration (CCD) of its unmanned PZL-Swidnik SW-4 helicopter for the UK Ministry of Defence.

The CCD program has been underway since 2013, with AgustaWestland testing their Rotary Wing Unmanned Air Systems (RWUAS) at Llanbedr Airfield in Wales.

The £2.3m programme saw the unmanned PZL-Swidnik SW-4 helicopter undergo a total of 27 hours of flight trials. This included 22 landings on the back of a moving truck used to simulate landing on a frigate deck and demonstrate the helicopter’s ability to land on pitching and rolling surfaces.

Testing the unmanned helicopter

The testing was completed across three phases, with the aircraft flown using automatic control from the ground with a safety pilot on standby within the helicopter.

Phase 1: The first phase covered launch and recovery; mission management; and degraded conditions operations.
Phase 2: The Second phase involved the simulated deck landings.
Phase 3: And the final phased tested the unmanned systems in simulated security and reconnaissance missions.

AgustaWestland also studied different sized unmanned rotary aircraft and the impact size had on landing and operating, as well as surveillance, mine hunting, hydrographic surveying, and surveillance.

AgustaWestland head of market development Tony Duthie said the company will continue to develop its unmanned technology throughout 2016.

“There are a number of initiatives, going forward. An unmanned Joint Warrior exercise is planned for 2016, and it is our intention to participate in that,” Duthie said in an interview with Flightglobal.