AeroMech team to build Sand Dragon route-surveillance UAV that runs on heavy fuels

By John Keller

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio—The U.S. Air Force is asking an industry team led by AeroMech Engineering Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif., to demonstrate the Sand Dragon medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for route surveillance on missions as long as 24 hours.

The Arcturus-UAV T-16 may be a smaller version of the eventual San Dragon UAV design.
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The Sand Dragon UAV will operate without the use of prepared runways, and will run on heavy fuels such as JP-5 and JP-8 jet propellants that are the foundation of military universal fuels that power jet and turboprop aircraft, nearly all tactical ground vehicles, electrical generators, and even the gas turbine engine of the U.S. Army M1 Abrams main battle tank.

Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson announced their plan last month to award a sole-source contract to AeroMech to finish developing, and to demonstrate, the Sand Dragon UAV, which will be able to accommodate an electronic and electro-optical payload that weighs a minimum of 45 pounds and consumes 500 watts of electricity.

Air Force researchers are asking AeroMech to demonstrate a runway-independent launch and recovery system for the 24-hour-endurance Sand Dragon Tier II UAV, as well as the pilotless aircraft’s control station, for quick deployment to the Middle East and other military operational areas.

Funding for this contract will be $16.4 million this year, and $2.14 million next year, Air Force officials say.

AeroMech, which makes the Fury, SuperFly, LCAT, and LCAT II UAVs, has been cooperating with UAV makers Arcturus-UAV LLC of Rohnert Park, Calif., and Cosworth Ltd. of Northampton, England, to develop a heavy fuel-powered UAV.

Cosworth’s AE-1 engine is a compression diesel engine designed and developed specifically for UAV applications. Arcturus-UAV, meanwhile, builds the T-20 Tier II class UAV with 17-foot wingspan and 35-pound payload capability with 16 hours of endurance. AeroMech has expertise in UAV sensor turrets and flight control and mission planning systems.

For more information, visit AeroMech online at, Arcturus-UAV at, or Cosworth at

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February 2014
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