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Rockwell Collins awarded new damage tolerance contract from DARPA

Rockwell Collins has been awarded the third phase of a damage tolerance contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Under the contract, Rockwell Collins will demonstrate completely autonomous takeoff, recovery from extreme damage and failure, and autonomous landing of an unmanned subscale F/A-18. Additional flight tests will be conducted on an operational Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).  

Over the course of approximately 15 months, Rockwell Collins will demonstrate its full Damage Tolerance and advanced controls capabilities.  

Flight tests will demonstrate increasing damage to both the subscale F/A-18 and an operational UAS, including the failure of control surfaces and parts of the wing, as well as loss of vertical and horizontal tail surfaces. The flight tests will also include an "engine-out" condition followed by automatic adaptive recovery and emergency autoland.  

"In addition to demonstrating increased reliability of unmanned aircraft, the damage tolerance work we are doing with DARPA goes a long way in facilitating evolving applications for UAS and the safe coexistence of manned and unmanned aircraft in common airspace," said Dr. David Vos, Senior Director of Control Technologies for Rockwell Collins. "Unmanned aircraft reliability in the battlespace will ensure that U.S. and Allied forces receive real-time high quality Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) data."  

"This next phase of the Damage Tolerance program will demonstrate that technology exists to reliably control UAS operating under the most challenging conditions such as extreme damage, upset or failure," said DARPA Program Manager James McCormick.  

Damage Tolerance Phase III follows Phases I and II, which were completed in April 2008.  In Phase II, the technology demonstrated an aircraft could survive catastrophic wing damage, recover its baseline performance, and safely land – all autonomously.  

A new video of the final flight test for Phase II, during which 60 percent of a wing was ejected and the adaptive controls were turned off and on, can be viewed at: www.rockwellcollins.com/news.  

Press release issued by Rockwell Collins Inc. on May 4, 2009


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