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Airbus claims successful test of unmanned aircraft

  • Successful first flight for UAV demonstrator 'SAGITTA'.
  • Unmanned jet powered craft flies for 7 minutes, including take-off and landing.
  • Concept plane is seen as crucial to developing unmanned flight.
Airbus | Dr. Andreas Zeitler

Airbus says it has successfully tested a new type of jet propelled aircraft that could speed the development of unmanned flight.

The European aerospace firm said the unmanned, jet-propelled craft flew by itself for around seven minutes over a test site in Overberg, South Africa.

"We are increasingly shifting our focus towards these kinds of innovative concepts, in particular for the development of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), so that we can develop products quickly and efficiently for a growing market," said Grazia Vittadini, head of engineering at Airbus Defence and Space in a release Tuesday.

The flight followed a pre-set course over the airfield and Airbus said the "Sagitta" craft used automated take-off and landing capabilities. Connection to the ground during flight is maintained via data links.

1st_Flight
Airbus | Dr. Andreas Zeitler

The project is not meant for sale in itself but is being used by Airbus as a demonstrator vehicle for future projects.

Airbus refused to speculate on what type of autonomous aircraft might arise from the project but said the design parameters focussed on "a high degree of autonomy, variable mission profiles and low levels of perceptibility".

The demonstrator is the product of the 'Open Innovation' / SAGITTA national initiative launched by Airbus in 2010 alongside 4 German universities.