The US Army’s corporate research laboratory wants to continue its collaborative efforts with Bell that lead to the development of the company’s Micro-UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), according to John Hrynuk, US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Army Research Laboratory (ARL) mechanical engineer.
The service official told Janes on 29 April that ongoing collaboration with Bell through the 2018 Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) would enable the ARL to continue providing emerging autonomous behaviours and leverage new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques on a production-ready vehicle. The Micro-UAS emerged from a 2017 discussion between members of Bell’s innovation team and ARL researchers and became a flying concept vehicle with multiple flight demonstrations. This includes the 2021 US Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) held from 5 February to 5 March at Fort Benning in Georgia.
US soldiers hold a flight-ready Bell Micro-UAS with propellers. The US Army’s corporate research laboratory wants to continue its collaborative relationship with Bell for the development of the aircraft. (DEVCOM ARL)
The Micro-UAS is an all-electric, soldier-borne, tail-sitting vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. It is intended to increase situational awareness beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
The aircraft has multirotor manoeuvrability and fixed-wing efficiency, and features autonomous flight capabilities such as auto-VTOL, conversion to wing-borne flight, and Global Positioning System (GPS) waypoint navigation. The Micro-UAS has a 544 g take-off weight, an estimated 60 minute flight endurance, up to 44 km radius, and an 89 kmh top speed.
John Wittmaak, Bell programme manager of UAS development, told Janes on 19 April that the Micro-UAS’s primary soldier-borne device application allows a user to gather intelligence. The user can launch the aircraft, operate it BVLOS, and have it autonomously capture video footage.