Navy to conduct drone flight research

The short-term R&D project, in which unmanned aerial systems (UAS) will be tested, is being conducted by the Office of Naval Research with the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory at Mississippi State University.

According to the office of Naval research, the flight testing to evaluate UAS capabilities will commence at the Stennis Space Center in coastal Mississippi in May and continue through to June. One of the features planned to evaluate are drone-mounted lasers that can measure water depth from the air, known as Light Detection And Ranging technology (LIDAR).

LIDAR measures the distance to a target by shining a laser light beam on the target, it is the same technology being used by law enforcement agencies now, in replace of radar guns, to measure the speed of a moving vehicle.

The drone in use for the test is called the Outlaw SeaHunter, developed by Griffon Aerospace in Huntsville, Alabama. The twin propeller drone has a 16-foot wingspan and a length of 9.9 feet, according to Griffon Aerospace. With a payload capacity of 90 pounds, the drone can fly for over four hours and over eight with an external fuel tank.

SeaHunter is the most capable member of Griffon’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) family, it is designed as a cost effective, reliable, Class III Multi-engine platform. SeaHunters are currently being used by military, universities, and research agencies for training, testing, data collection, and system R&D.

The demonstration of the LIDAR technology will be a short-term project, so there won’t be a permanent presence of the Navy. That being said, it is suggested that the research associated with the project could lead to a better understanding of coastal ecology and wetlands ecology.

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