AN UNMANNED AIRCRAFT THAT CAN take off and land in water without any launching or trapping contraptions is planned for production late next year.
The 14.75-foot long Sea Scout, constructed from composite aluminum and powered by a gasoline engine, can take off from the surface of water and carry up to 35 pounds of payload on a full tank of fuel. It is designed to fly as far away as 100 nautical miles and loiter in the sky for five hours at 65 knots. During that time, the drone can land on water to pause for an hour before returning to its launching point.
"If you're going to make a seaplane that's operated from the surface of the water, you want to be able to take off autonomously, loiter autonomously, and return to the surface of the water, all without a stowed operator in the loop," says Josh Pruzek, military division manager for Oregon Iron Works Inc., based in Clackamus, Ore.
Algorithms built into the drone's guidance and control system allow it to take off and land with minimal input from operators at a laptop computer. It has a commercial laser sensor that can detect wave height measurements for landings in rough water conditions.
The ground control station also allows multiple Sea Scouts to be commanded by one person.
Other unmanned seaplanes have been developed, but require catapults...