Jul 24, 2017: Airbus Defence and Space, a division of Airbus Group responsible for defence and aerospace products and services has successfully tested a new type of aircraft that will support the development of future unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for series production. The unmanned jet-propelled demonstrator with the project name SAGITTA flew entirely autonomously for around seven minutes over the test site in Overberg, South Africa, on a pre-programmed course. The modern flying-wing construction demonstrated outstanding flight characteristics during the test. This flight marked the successful completion of the first test phase, which also comprised a broad series of ground tests.
The demonstrator is the product of the ‘Open Innovation’ / SAGITTA national initiative started by Airbus in 2010. The project sees Airbus collaborating with institutes from the technical universities of Munich and Chemnitz, the University of the Federal Armed Forces (Universität der Bundeswehr) in Munich, the Ingolstadt University of Applied Sciences and the German Aerospace Centre DLR to jointly develop highly developed technologies for unmanned flight. The project started with a feasibility study of the flying-wing configuration.
Criteria for the design included a high degree of autonomy, variable mission profiles and low levels of perceptibility. To achieve this, the inter-institutional research team adopted approaches from academic and industrial research, developed these further and included them into solutions for industrial application. Airbus facilitated the constant exchange between experts, doctoral students and developers during the development stage. Besides, the Company offered the industrial facilities required for integrating the technologies in the demonstrator at Airbus Defence and Space’s Military Air Systems Centre in Manching, Germany.
"With SAGITTA’s first flight, we have proved just how successful a cooperation between industry and academic partners can be in the area of basic research," said Grazia Vittadini, Head of Engineering at Airbus Defence and Space. "We are increasingly shifting our focus towards these kinds of innovative concepts, in particular for the development of UAVs, so that we can develop products quickly and efficiently for a growing market."