S-Plane’s X-KIT optionally piloted vehicle conversion kit has been used by Spanish electronics company Indra on its Targus optionally piloted vehicle, which is designed for surveillance missions.
The Targus is based on the manned Tecnam P2006T light twin engine aircraft. Indra earlier this month said it had recently successfully completed the first test flights of the Targus, with groundbreaking experimental flights in non-segregated airspace with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that weighs 1.25 tons and has an 11 meter wingspan.
The Targus optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) is based on the MRI version of the Tecnam P2006T aircraft, and is fitted with a Seaspray 5000E radar, a high resolution electro-optical/infrared payload (FLIR UltraForce 275-HD or Wescam MX-10) and maritime AIS (Automatic Identification System). Targus can fly in civil airspace like any other certified aircraft. Once deployed in the area of operations, it can be configured as an unmanned aircraft.
“No other newly-developed UAV has been granted permission to carry out such flights before. This a landmark for Spanish aviation and a step forward for development in this sector,” Indra said.
The first flight took place on 24 June and was the start of a series of tests that were conducted over two weeks. All the flights complied with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency (AESA) regulations. A test pilot would take off from Santiago de Compostela Airport and then hand over control to the ground control centre.
“To have obtained the approval of Flight Conditions for an optionally piloted vehicle from the European Aviation Safety Agency is a success of great importance in itself since it is a process that has never been carried out before,” Indra said.
“It also offers a great operational advantage for future users, who will be able to fly over urban areas or land at airports without restrictions when manned, and fly without a pilot when it arrives at the operational area. This dual use significantly enhances the commercial appeal and capabilities of Targus.”
Indra plans to conclude development of the optionally piloted vehicle this year. The aircraft is being marketed for conducting missions such as air-sea rescue, fisheries surveillance, environmental protection, detection of discharges in the sea, monitoring land use and historical heritage sites and providing support to fire-fighting.
The Targus aircraft has an endurance of 8-10 hours and range of over 1 000 km. Cruising speed is around 200 km/h. The aircraft is powered by two Rotax 912 engines each delivering 100 hp.
Indra is working with the government of Spain’s Galicia region on the optionally piloted vehicle programme. S-Plane integrated the X-KIT system onto the Targus together with Indra, Gaerum and Airborne Technologies. Targus forms part of the Civil UAS Initiative of the Galician government in collaboration with the aforementioned companies.
S-Plane said its X-KIT is a complete automation, communication, ground control and simulation solution that allows for the rapid conversion of manned and unmanned aircraft into manned, unmanned or optionally piloted ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems.
The X-KIT system operates the aircraft controls identically to when they are operated by a pilot. When a pilot is on board, he may override the controls or switch over to manual piloting as required.
S-Plane said the optionally piloted vehicle has many benefits, such as being able to execute missions that demand human judgement and control such as flight in civil airspace, flight over congested areas, flying at low level and transporting passengers, when in manned mode. When the OPV is configured as a UAV, it can perform missions which require extreme endurance or are too dangerous for manned aircraft. These include critical infrastructure protection and surveillance, border and maritime patrol, cargo delivery, firefighting and hazardous materials containment.
“The OPV can dramatically reduce the different classes of vehicles an organisation has to keep in operation to perform a variety of tasks. This brings about substantial savings in setting up infrastructure, other capital expenditure and training of maintenance and operational personnel. The ability to operate in manned airspace also greatly reduces the out-of-service period during planned maintenance, as the aircraft can be flown to the maintenance depot without requiring disassembly and shipment,” S-Plane said. It added that another benefit was using proven, existing airframes with large payloads.
The X-KIT design allows an aircraft to retain its certification status for manned flight, enabling its continued use in airspace where manned aircraft operations take place.
The X-KIT system can be installed on most fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft to convert these into manned, unmanned and optionally piloted ISR aircraft systems. It has been installed on the Fama Kiss 209 helicopter and CADG Helix ISR aircraft (Stemme ES-15).