Hummingbird Unmanned Rotorcraft

Boeing recently completed a test flight of a new unmanned helicopter currently under development for the U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Special Operations Command. The new drone will be able to perform long range high endurance surveillance and reconnaissance operations deep inside enemy territory and future missions may even be used for re-supply and medical evacuation roles.

Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird unmanned helicopter project was originally created as a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAV with a range of 2,500 nautical miles (4630 km) and up to 48 hours endurance. The original piston-powered A160 made its first test flight in January 2002. The new and improved turbine-powered A160T version made its 12-minutes-long maiden flight in June 2007 and Boeing plans to continue testing the drone.

The 35-feet-long Hummingbird has a 36-foot rotor and a planned speed of more than 140 knots with a ceiling of 25,000 to 30,000 ft. Although it’s unclear whether the Hummingbird will eventually enter service or continue as a proof-of-concept like many similar projects, it’s clear that VTOL UAV’s in one form or another are going to see action in the not too distant future. 

TFOT recently covered several other innovative UAV projects including Honeywell Miniature Air Vehicle (MAV) the Technion’s MONGURD – Canister Launched UAV and the X-48B blended wing body (BWB) experimental aircraft. 
More info on the A160T Hummingbird can be found on Boeing’s website
Image: Boeing’s A160T Hummingbird on the ground (Credit: Boeing).

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