Tapping into its evolving expertise in airborne sensing systems, Diamond Aircraft CEO Christian Dries said Thursday at Aero Friedrichshafen that the company will soon be testing a robotic helicopter, the Hero. The aircraft is intended for the military and commercial airborne sensor and reconnaissance market but it won't be just another UAV. In this podcast from Aero, Dries said the aircraft will be capable of not just autonomous flight, but also a degree of artificial intelligence and flight judgment. "It's a little bit beyond a regular unmanned aircraft," Dries said.
As an example of the aircraft's "judgment," Dries said that in the event of an engine failure, the aircraft will be capable of analyzing and picking the best landing spot before entering an autorotation approach and touchdown. Unlike typical ground-controlled UAVs, the new Diamond helo can complete its mission autonomously with or without any kind of ground monitoring. The aircraft is powered by a pair of AE55 rotary engines made by Diamond's sister company, Austro AG. The Hero helicopter, which is being developed as a joint venture with another company, will carry about 250 pounds of sensor equipment with an endurance of 6.5 hours and the ability to hover over one spot for nearly four hours. Dries said the aircraft has already flown and is soon to enter formal testing.