The Aerosonde Mark 4.7 small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) was jointly developed by AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems, an operating unit of Textron Systems, and Aerosonde. The UAS is suitable for use in long-endurance missions.
The unmanned air system can be launched from land- and ship-based platforms to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and covert maritime missions as well as communication relay.
The Aerosonde Mark 4.7 series SUAS was first unveiled in March 2009. It was offered by AAI for the US Navy and Marine Corps’ joint Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS)/Tier II competition in July 2009.
The SUAS, powered by Lycoming Engines’ new EL-005 multi-fuel engine, achieved 10,000 combat flight hours during its deployment by the US Department of Defense customers in Afghanistan by April 2014.
The Aerosonde SUAS fleet also includes Mark 4.4 and Mark 5.0.
Aerosonde Mark 4.7 SUAS flight trials
The Aerosonde Mark 4.7 air system successfully performed a series of shipboard trails from the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s M-80 Stiletto Maritime Demonstration Test Bed in January 2010. The system’s endurance and automated launch/recovery capabilities were demonstrated during the Bahrain International Airshow in January 2010.
AAI completed fee-for-service operations with the air system to support C4ISR On-the-Move (OTM) programme of the US Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) in October 2010. An Aerosonde Mark 4.7 air system was delivered to the US Army CERDEC in October 2011.
AAI completed fee-for-service operations for the US Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren Division in February 2011. BOSH Global Services placed a fee-for-service contract for an Aerosonde UAS and associated equipment for the US Air Force Academy in March 2011.
Aerosonde SUAS design and features
The Aerosonde Mark 4.7 small unmanned aircraft system features rugged, light weight design. It can be air transported by a C-130 Hercules turboprop military transport aircraft. The tactical drone with low acoustic signature and long endurance capabilities is ideal for executing expeditionary ISR missions in confined areas, and maritime operations.
The UAS has a wing span of 3.6m and can carry a maximum payload of about 10lb. AAI’s unique launch and recovery trailer (LRT) facilitates easy automatic launch and recovery of the air vehicle in restricted field operations. The LRT consists of a Sliding Frame Launcher and hydraulically actuated Soft Hands™ Net Recovery System.
Aerosonde Mark 4.7 is interoperable with AAI’s One System® Remote Video Terminal, Integrated Command (iCommand®) suite, and other platforms such as Video Scout and Rover 4, 5 and 6.
The unmanned aircraft system is attached with a modular payload system to deliver effective ISR capabilities. A combined electro-optical (EO)/infrared (IR) payload is fitted to capture real-time imagery and videos during day and night under all weather conditions. The UAS can also carry payloads such as signals intelligence, communications relay and electronic warfare equipment.
Avionics on board the Aerosonde aircraft system
The Aerosonde Mark 4.7 small UAS incorporates ultra-high frequency (UHF), L-, S- and C-band imagery data link communication systems. It can also be integrated with Mode 3 identification friend or foe (IFF) transponder, three-axis magnetometer, precision GPS, visible navigation lights, IR anti-collision lights and an optional laser altimeter.
Ground control station
The UAS is controlled by AAI’s man-portable, net-centric Expeditionary Ground Control Station (EGCS) featuring scalable, open-architecture design. The ground station is equipped with a remote interface box, a miniature ground data terminal, and ruggedized workstations for the aircraft and payload operators. It can control multiple unmanned platforms and perform command and control of the UAS while on the move.
Aerosonde Mark 4.7 SUAS propulsion and performance
The Aerosonde SUAS is powered by a single-cylinder, air-cooled, direct-injected, spark-ignited Lycoming EL-005 engine which uses electronic controls and optimisation to consume jet fuel.
The power plant provides cruise speeds between 50k and 60k, and dash speeds between 62k and 80k at sea level. The air system can operate at a density altitude of 4,500m. It can loiter in air for more than 12 hours at full payload weight.