UAV takes off from lake, sans run­way


The Navy suc­cess­fully launched its new­est small un­manned air­craft with­out us­ing a run­way at Naval Air Weapons Sta­tion China Lake, Cal­i­for­nia. A lit­tle more than two years into its engi­neer­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and de­vel­op­ment phase, the RQ-21A Small Tac­ti­cal Un­manned Air Sys­tem (STUAS) en­tered de­vel­op­men­tal test at China Lake, be­gin­ning with a 66-minute flight.

Dur­ing the ini­tial de­vel­op­men­tal flight test at the weapons sta­tion, op­er­a­tors flew the RQ-21A us­ing a unique pneu­matic launcher and a re­cov­ery sys­tem known as Sky­hook. This sys­tem, de­vel­oped by In­situ, Inc., elim­i­nates the need for run­ways and en­ables a safe re­cov­ery and ex­pe­di­tionary ca­pa­bil­ity for tac­ti­cal mis­sions on land or sea.

“The flight at China Lake marks the start of a new test phase for RQ-21A STUAS, the first ex­pe­di­tionary, multi-in­tel­li­gence UAS in its class,” said Colonel Jim Rec­tor, STUAS pro­gramme man­ager (PMA-263) at Patux­ent River, Mary­land. “De­vel­op­men­tal test will be fast-paced, like the rest of the pro- gramme has been. We are on track for ini­tial op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity in 2013.”

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