The French defence procurement agency (DGA) has awarded DCNS and Thales the second phase of the D2AD* study to design and demonstrate an automatic takeoff, landing and deck landing system for rotary-wing UAVs. Phase 2 demonstration trials will be conducted in Mesa, Arizona, and will use the AH-6U Little Bird unmanned helicopter from Boeing.
Landing tests on fixed and moving platforms will pave the way for deck landing trials on a French Navy vessel at sea, planned for mid-2011.
The DGA awarded the D2AD study contract in late 2008 as part of a broader risk reduction effort to support future tactical UAV programmes for the French Navy and Army. The DCNS/Thales system demonstrator will incorporate the full spectrum of operational constraints related to takeoff, landing and deck landing operations, including the required levels of discretion in a range of environmental, weather and sea state conditions.
Thales is responsible for the landing system, the UAV system and the trajectory control system. DCNS is responsible for ship motion prediction, the deck landing strategy and for securing the UAV to the flight deck.
The D2AD study is conducted in three phases:
• Phase 1 includes definition of a complete set of specifications for the D2AD system and associated interfaces.
• Phase 2, awarded in early May, includes development of the demonstrator and trials on land.
• Phase 3 will conclude the study with final deck landing trials on a French Navy vessel in high sea state conditions (up to sea state 5).