New facilities, new UAS capabilities unveiled by Textron Systems

By Patrick C. Miller | May 12, 2016

Textron Systems Unmanned Systems this week held a grand opening for the company’s new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) training and maintenance facility in Blackstone, Virginia.

Attendees at the grand opening saw the company demonstrate the Aerosonde small UAS, as well as the Shadow M2, both of which operated under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certificates of Authorization (COA) at the facility.

Last week, the company also unveiled its hybrid quadrotor proof-of-concept integration on the Aerosonde small UAS, giving the fixed-wing aircraft the ability to take off vertically, transition to level flight and land vertically. With assistance from Latitude Engineering and Cloud Cap Technology, tests were completed that involved coordination of the Aerosonde’s Lycoming heavy fuel engine and an independent battery powered system.

“We successfully went through two cycles of testing out in Yuma, Arizona,” said David Phillips, Textron Systems vice president of small and medium-endurance UAS. “All the hard work really has been done in getting those two systems to coordinate with each other. What we’re doing now is productionizing that system, making sure that it’s ready for sale. It’s ready to fly today.”

Located on the Allen C. Perkinson Airport and Blackstone Army Airfield taxiway, the new Textron Systems Unmanned Systems Service and Support Center is a 14,700 square-foot facility spanning two buildings. It expands the company’s space by approximately 1,700 square feet and includes three classrooms with capacity for 12 students in each, as well as two simulator rooms that can operate up to 12 total flight simulators.

With assistance from UAV Pro and the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), which obtained the COA for aeronautical research, Textron Systems is moving its training and global service facility from its original location on Fort Pickett, Virginia, to the new, larger and comprehensive center. The new center will house the company’s schoolhouse for operators and maintainers, as well as the sustainment operations for its Aerosonde sUAS.

The facility also supports research on UAS integration into national airspace through its COAs for the Aerosonde SUAS and Shadow M2.

“Here is a very exciting opportunity with the public-private partnership working together to garner the research we need to do things much more efficiently, effectively and get the FAA safety data,” said Rose Mooney, MAAP director.

She said that as Textron continues to grow at the new facility and provides its UAS platforms for training and research, MAAP can provide the FAA with data on how UAS can be integrated into the national airspace at a Class C airport.

“We can put the body of evidence together and go to the FAA and show them that safe integration can happen,” Mooney said.

Textron’s new facilities include an engine test cell, an air vehicle test cell and space for air vehicle assembly, composite and engine maintenance, repair and operations. They also provide direct access to the airport for UAS operations. In addition, the buildings have an expandable and modular design that allow for growth with business and product changes.

“With this expansion, we have the opportunity to train more operators, maintain additional UAS and continue our research on integrating UAS into national airspace,” said Bill Irby, Textron Systems Unmanned System senior vice president and general manager.


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