This summer, Centaur, Aurora’s Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) system, participated in test flight operations at the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft System Center of Excellence & Innovation (LSUASC) at Texas A&M University, one of seven FAA UAS test sites in the United States. These flight tests supported the FAA’s Advanced Air Mobility Beyond Visual Line of Sight National Airspace System Evaluation (BNE) project to better understand the impact of large UAS (over 55 lbs.) Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations in the national airspace system.
Centaur is an ideal platform for the development and testing of autonomous technology and unmanned operations. It is cost-efficient and can accelerate the progression from development to flight test. In hybrid flight mode, Centaur is piloted remotely from a ground station while also carrying an on-board safety pilot to comply with regulations and ensure a safe flight. Centaur’s flexible payload architecture allows integration for a variety of sensors for testing and data collection, and its highly accurate and repeatable autopilot features help ensure quality data collection.
Centaur also excels at testing important enabling technologies in autonomy, such as detect and avoid systems. Centaur makes the transition from development to test much more efficient by enabling users to get technology into the air quickly and collect learnings to feed further innovation in an accelerated development cycle.
In supporting the FAA BNE project, Centaur participated in coordinated operations with other unmanned systems. Centaur performed scripted flight scenarios, collected data, and provided that data to be analyzed. The data helps to identify gaps in current Communications-Navigation-Surveillance (CNS) technology, develop Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) standards, and gain an increased understanding of Safety Risk Management (SRM) factors for large UAS operations over 400 ft above ground level (AGL).
A team of Aurora engineers and flight operations experts travelled to Texas and conducted flight tests throughout the months of June and July. In that time, Centaur performed a variety of operations including multi-phase point-to-point patterns, area survey missions, dynamic weather routing, and lost link procedures.
“We’re proud to provide the unique capabilities of Centaur in support of the FAA and look forward to the future of unmanned flight,” said Carrie Haase, Director of Flight Operations at Aurora Flight Sciences.
Based on a certified twin-engine general aviation aircraft, Centaur offers a high degree of safety and redundancy, along with exceptional range, high efficiency, and low life cycle cost. This Optionally Piloted Aircraft is a flexible, multi-role system for piloted, hybrid, or remotely piloted flight operations, making it an excellent solution for operations in controlled and uncontrolled airspace.
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