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Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft completed successful autonomous test flight.

| 2020

Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft completed a successful autonomous test flight in December.

Bell V 280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft completed successful autonomous test flight V-280 in flight with rotors tilted to hover configuration (Picture source: Danazar)

On Deemeber 18, Bell’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor demonstrator flew autonomously for the first time  at the company’s Arlington, Texas, facility during two sorties.

Over the course of the day, the V-280 met all of Bell’s flight goals for the aircraft’s first venture into flying autonomously. The V-280 performed an autonomous takeoff, conversion into cruise mode, precision navigation to various waypoints, loiter maneuvers, conversion into vertical-takeoff-and-landing mode, and landed autonomously.

Paul Wilson, Bell’s chief engineer for V-280, noted that the autonomous flight test was an opportunity to further inform FLRAA requirements and demonstrate that an optionally-manned capability was in the realm of the possible.

“The biggest thing is understanding where [the Army’s] long-term objective is and where they want to go. Then we can make sure we provision for that capability, so when we do integrate capability over the life of the platform it’s not a significant redesign or significant amount of cost to put that new capability in,” Wilson said.

About FLRAA program

The Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program was initiated by the United States Army in 2019 to develop a successor to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter as part of the Future Vertical Lift program. The UH-60, developed in the early 1970s, has been in service since June 1979. Like the UH-60, FLRAA variants would also serve United States Special Operations Command and the United States Marine Corps. Under the existing Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program, the Army has been gathering data from flying prototype designs that could fill the FLRAA role.

The Army posted a request for information  in April 2019, which was intended to identify interested manufacturers. According to the RFI, the Army plans to bring the FLRAA into service in 2030, in anticipation of retiring the UH-60 after a 50-year life.

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