Scion UAS demonstrates takeoff, landing from moving platform

By Patrick C. Miller | August 28, 2014

Scion UAS recently became one of the world’s first companies to successfully conduct autonomous takeoffs and landings from a moving platform.

Based in Ft. Collins, Colo., Scion UAS landed a manned-capable vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft on a moving platform. The company released a video of its SA-400 Jackal landing smoothly on a 16-foot-by-20-foot trailer being towed along a runway at speeds up to 10 knots (11.5 mph).

Steen Mogensen, Scion UAS CEO said, “Capabilities like this used to be limited to large defense contractors. We’re very proud of what our small team in Colorado has accomplished!”

Safety pilot Jim Sampson was on board the aircraft during the flight tests for situational awareness and to ensure compliance with FAA regulations. The SA-400 is capable of flying fully unmanned or as an optionally piloted helicopter.

More than 10 landings and takeoffs were performed, including straight-line approaches and 45-degree approaches to simulate ship-based operations. The company called it “a significant milestone towards demonstrating the ship-based takeoff and landing capabilities of the optionally piloted helicopter.”

“Scion landed on a smaller deck and accomplished the entire project at a fraction of the cost of competing systems,” said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Sanford Mangold.

The SA-400 Jackal is a turbine-powered VTOL aircraft designed to carry a 100-pound payload for more than four hours. The first two SA-400 Jackal systems are being delivered to the Naval Research Laboratories (NRL), where the vehicles will be used in the development and demonstration of emerging sensor systems.

Al Cross, head of the NRL Vehicle Research Section, said, “This is a major achievement which demonstrates that a small company can push the state-of-the-art in VTOL UAS development on an austere budget. I am very proud of what Scion UAS has accomplished today and look forward to accepting the SA-400 vehicles into the NRL research vehicle inventory.”

Founded in 2011, Scion UAS, LLC offers a product family of unmanned helicopter systems ranging in size from car-transportable to optionally piloted. The company said its VTOL UAS provides “a simple-to-use aerial platform that is suitable for a wide variety of civilian and military applications including search and rescue, agriculture, aerial mapping, and aerial surveys.”