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.”