Aerosonde HQ is a vertical take-off and landing UAS manufactured by Textron Systems. Image courtesy of Textron Systems.
Aerosonde HQ SUAS is the fixed-wing variant of the Aerosonde SUAS. Image courtesy of Textron Systems.
The unmanned aircraft system can also operate in maritime environment. Image courtesy of Textron Systems.

Aerosonde HQ is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) designed and manufactured by Textron Systems. It features an expanded size, weight and power (SWAP) profile.

The unmanned aerial system can perform a range of operations including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), covert and communication relay.

The SUAS is capable of performing expeditionary land- and sea-based operations. It is designed to perform missions in some of the world’s most challenging environments including desert heat and Arctic cold.

The drone can also deliver simultaneous day/night full-motion video, communications relay, and signals intelligence, while carrying customer-selected payload in a single flight.

Textron Systems completed the inaugural Aerosonde HQ SUAS customer demonstration at its unmanned systems service and support centre in October 2016. Aerosonde HQ SUAS is the fixed-wing variant of the company’s proven Aerosonde SUAS.

Aerosonde HQ design and features

The Aerosonde HQ SUAS integrates a twin boom fuselage. Each wing is installed with twin vertically-mounted rotors ensuring VTOL capability.

The maximum wingspan of the drone is 3.7m and it weighs 47.6kg (105lb). The ceiling and maximum take-off elevation of the system is 10,000ft and 7,000ft respectively.
The complete drone system can be assembled and deployed in less than 20 minutes with four crew members.

The Hybrid Quadrotor technology provides VTOL capability to Aerosonde HQ, making it runway-independent. The SUAS shifts to horizontal flight after take-off. It does not require any prepositioned personnel or recovery equipment for landing.

The portable drone can be fitted with different sensors and payloads for improved civil and commercial missions such as survey and inspection.Textron provides on-site training and flexible business models to meet customer requirements.

The company provides turnkey fee for service (FFS) for the systems deployed around the world in less than 90 days. It also offers system sales support and hands-on customer training along with FFS.

Payload of Aerosonde HQ

The maximum payload capacity of the system is 6.8kg (15lb). The TASE400 LD payload aboard the UAS has the capability to locate, identify and engage long-range targets.

The unmanned aircraft can be fitted with different customer specific payloads including full-motion video (FMV) and day/night imaging, ad-hoc networking (MANET), synthetic aperture radar (SAR), voice communications relay, signals intelligence (SIGINT), 3D mapping, communications intelligence (COMINT), as well as automatic identification system (AIS).

Engine and performance

The unmanned aerial system is powered by Lycoming’s EL-005 heavy-fuel engine which generates 4hp output at 5,500rpm. It has a dry weight of up to 6.25kg.

The two-stroke single-cylinder engine is controlled by the electronic control unit and uses digital electronic controls to offer seamless flying experience.

The drone has an endurance of 10 hours with multi-INT payload. It can fly at an airspeed between 45kt and 65kt and has a range of up to 140km.

The transition altitude of the aerial vehicle ranges between 50ft and 150ft above ground level. The air system can operate at a density altitude of 10,500ft.

Orders and deliveries of Aerosonde SUAS

The US Department of Defense awarded a $25.6m fixed-price contract to Textron Systems for three Aerosonde Mk4.7 systems (catapult-launched version). The contractual work will be performed in Nigeria until September 2021.

The contract also includes initial spare parts, logistics support, new equipment training and two field service representatives.

Textron Systems also received a $20.7m contract from the US Department of Defense to deliver two Aerosonde Mk4.7 systems, initial spare parts, new equipment training, logistics support and a field representative. The contractual work will be performed in Uganda by September 2022.

The acquisition is part of the US Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team (FVLCFT) and the tests were conducted by the US Army’s 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.