Released today by South African aerospace and defence company S-PLANE Automation (Pty) Ltd (Hangar 6, Stand CW21), the xKIT converts an existing aircraft into an Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV), enabling integrators and aircraft manufacturers to bring sophisticated unmanned features rapidly to market.
The OPV is a highly versatile platform, combining the benefits of a manned aircraft with those of a UAV. As a manned aircraft, the OPV can execute missions that demand human judgement and control, such as flight in civil airspace, flight over congested areas, flying at low level and transporting passengers.
When configured as a UAV, it can perform missions that require extreme endurance or are too dangerous for manned aircraft. These include critical infrastructure protection and surveillance, border and maritime patrol, cargo delivery, firefighting and HAZMAT containment.
The xKIT at the S-Plane stand is installed in a production model FAMA 209 ultra light helicopter, supplied by FAMA Helicopters Africa. A practical demonstration will be given of autonomous flight using S-PLANE systems, with the aircraft exhibiting actual flight behaviour in real time. The connected ParagonC2 ground station demonstrates the definition and interactive management of missions for the aircraft as well as remote piloting. The aircraft on display is configured as an OPV, but a single switch allows the pilot or operator to toggle the aircraft between manned and unmanned piloting modes.
The use of existing airframes that have been well tested, fully modelled and have large payload carrying capability, results in very high confidence in successful outcomes, thus substantially reducing development risk and cost. The xKIT uses building blocks from the S-PLANE xSERIES subsystems and offers the degree of redundancy, ruggedness, safety and reliability required for the most demanding applications. It can accommodate a wide variety of different aircraft and is modular to allow for fast adaptation to enable a broad range of functions. Its design allows an aircraft to retain its certification status for manned flight.
In addition to operating in tight integration with the ParagonC2 ground station, it can operate with another S-PLANE subsystem, HILS (Hardware-In-the-Loop Simulator), for high-fidelity testing, qualification, maintenance and training.