GoldenEye UAV makes first autonomous transition flights

April 27, 2005
MANASSAS, Va., 26 April 2005. Aurora Flight Sciences announced today that its GoldenEye-50 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) performed multiple autonomous transitions from vertical to horizontal flight, and back again, during test flights last week.

MANASSAS, Va., 26 April 2005. Aurora Flight Sciences announced today that its GoldenEye-50 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) performed multiple autonomous transitions from vertical to horizontal flight, and back again, during test flights last week.

The flights validate Aurora's research, development, test, and evaluation of autonomous, ducted-fan UAVs with vertical take off and landing capabilities. GoldenEye-50, which Aurora announced in 2003 and first flew in July 2004, exhibits helicopter-like hover and vertical takeoff and landing performance as well as fuel efficient, wing-borne flight similar to a conventional airplane.

This broad flight envelope provides operational flexibility not available in other small UAVs. During the transition flights, the aircraft accelerated to a forward velocity sufficient to make the aircraft's wings provide primary lift and roll authority. The aircraft exhibited stable forward flight to a pre-determined waypoint where it autonomously returned to a hover, turned 180 degrees and returned to its launching area.

In December, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) selected a GoldenEye variant called GoldenEye-OAV as one of three vehicles concepts to compete for the Organic Air Vehicle-II procurement. The OAV-II UAV will provide a self-contained UAV capability for company-sized units in the Army's Future Combat System.

After one initial tether flight, the GoldenEye-50 made its first free flight in July 2004. Since then, the GoldenEye-50 aircraft have completed more than 30 test missions in a variety of weather conditions. All flights have been fully autonomous, using a GS-111M from Athena Technologies as the flight control system. There are currently three GoldenEye-50 UAVs in various stages of flight testing.

During the flight, the UAV used the GuideStar integrated flight control and navigation system (FCS/INS) from Athena Technologies, Inc.

The miniature GS-111m GuideStar weighs just 7 ounces and performs fully autonomous navigation and flight control missions with the GoldenEye-50, from automated vertical takeoff and landing through high-speed, hover, loiter and payload pointing flight.

Athena originally demonstrated the capability embodied in the GuideStar system in 2001/2002 for the DARPA Organic Air Vehicle (OAV) program and has continued to enhance the performance and capabilities of the GuideStar product line as it supplies FCS/INS solutions to the U.S. Army Shadow TUAV, Air Force BQM-167 target, and Alenia Aeronautica SKY-X UCAV programs, among others.

The demonstration flights were performed as part of an ongoing envelope expansion program with DARPA, said Dr. Dave Vos, CEO and CTO of Athena Technologies. "The overarching goal here is to demonstrate that it is possible to provide a navigation and control system that can exploit the full envelope capabilities of the ducted fan class of Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) vehicles to provide a versatile airborne platform for the end user."

Vos continued, "Athena has a very successful history of providing navigation and control solutions for all classes of UAVs, and we steadily continue to demonstrate that our technology and ability to deliver solutions on schedule, as well as at a very aggressive life-cycle cost, is second to none in the industry."

In addition to the Army, several other federal and allied government organizations have expressed interest in using the GoldenEye aircraft system to meet their diverse mission requirements. GoldenEye-50's payload flexibility -- which enables a wide variety of sensors and cameras to be integrated into the aircraft, ability to fly long distances, hover over a target for an extended period and return -- make it ideal for a variety of military, homeland security and first responder missions. Because the GoldenEye design is inherently scalable, Aurora can optimize the size of the vehicle to meet almost any customer mission requirements.

"For decades, engineers have wrestled with the difficulties of designing and flying aircraft that takeoff vertically and transition to horizontal flight," said Dr. John Langford, president of Aurora Flight Sciences. "These flights demonstrate that the GoldenEye program has found answers to some of those challenging technical questions."

Aurora Flight Sciences is a leader in unmanned aerial vehicle technology for research, defense and homeland security organizations. For more than 15 years, Aurora Flight Sciences has expanded the limits of unmanned flight through the design and manufacture of innovative aircraft. For more information, see

Athena Technologies is a developer and producer of dynamics and control systems, specializing in flight control systems. Founded in 1998, the company produces the GuideStar family of versatile, compact and cost- effective flight control systems for military applications and the SensorPac for general aviation applications. The company is an independent, privately held firm with headquarters in Northern Virginia. For more information, see

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Military Aerospace, create an account today!