Orbital announces UAV project with Insitu, subsidiary of Boeing


Orbital announced it has successfully completed the design phase of its design, development and validation program for the next generation Unmanned Aerial Surveillance (UAS) propulsion system for Insitu Inc., one of the world’s largest and most experienced operators of UAS.

Reaper UAV Taxis at Kandahar Airfield
Reaper UAV Taxis at Kandahar Airfield
Image credit: flickr User: Defence Images

Upon passing the design review, Orbital has commenced the production of prototype hardware to support ground based development testing and ultimately flight testing of the new UAS propulsion system.

According to the media release by Orbital, the complete program includes several iterations to release a fully productionised and validated propulsion system, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2015.

The collaboration between Insitu and Orbital has resulted in development and validation of the plan to combine propulsion and air vehicle requirements to achieve the highest in service reliability. The gateway was a key step in the initial design, development and validation contract previously announced and valued at up to $4.5 million.

The engine will utilize Orbital’s Argon FlexECU, the company’s smallest, lightest and highest specification Engine Control Unit (ECU), making it one of the most advanced propulsion systems mounted on a small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS).

The advanced ECU will enable the ground station to monitor the engine’s health and will provide accurate fuel consumption information to maximize fuel utilization.

“We are excited to work with Insitu in an integrated team taking a collaborative system’s approach to engineer the most reliable UAS solution. Building upon paste experience, Orbital’s engineers have incorporated numerous advancements into this next generation propulsion system that will deliver a superior power to weight ratio, superior performance, superior engine heath monitoring and the ability to operate at higher altitudes and in more turbulent conditions than any other SUAS. We are extremely pleased to be working with Insitu and with success hope for a long and mutually beneficial business relationship. We look forward to the next stage of the program and ultimately to Insitu’s success when it launches this next generation SUAS in the not too distant future,” said Mr Terry Stinson, CEO and Managing Director of Orbital.

“Insitu undertook an extensive investigation of available technologies through which Orbital’s FlexDi system and advanced engine development technologies stood out as the clear leader. We are extremely pleased with the manner in which the program is progressing and look forward to continued development success and to flight testing later in the year,” said Mr Steve Morrow, President and CEO of Insitu Inc.