Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Insitu unveils long endurance Integrator VTOL unmanned aircraft system

Insitu, the Boeing-owned developer of autonomous systems, has unveiled a Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) version of its Integrator unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exhibition in National Harbor, Maryland.

The new aircraft, called Integrator VTOL, launches vertically on ships or land without sacrificing payload capacity or endurance. The system retains the performance of fixed-wing aircraft, providing the same long-range wide-area surveillance capability for extended periods.

Integrator VTOL is uniquely designed to operate as a portable system in tight quarters, such as ship decks, and in challenging maritime conditions with high seas and gusty winds. It doesn’t require stationary launch and recovery equipment – providing expeditionary portability and modularity across both UAS hardware and payloads while minimizing the impact on other flight operations.

The unique design offers a three-times improvement in range and endurance over hybrid VTOLs. It provides a flight time of greater than 16 hours, carrying 40 lbs. of best-in-class modular payloads. It also has a significant improvement over tail-sitters in its ability to fly on and off ships in rough seas where ship roll and motion present major issues for tall and narrow base tail-sitter UAS.

The Integrator VTOL system consists of two parts – FLARES (Flying Launch and Recovery System) developed by Hood Tech and the Insitu Integrator air vehicle. FLARES performs normal operations at half throttle, allowing significant control authority to withstand gusts, lower-density air, and higher ship deck motion.

To deploy, FLARES engages Integrator and climbs into the sky. Once it reaches its desired altitude, FLARES dashes forward before releasing Integrator, allowing Integrator to perform its long-range, wide-area surveillance mission for extended durations. Once Integrator is released, FLARES returns to a ship’s deck or land to await Integrator’s return.

As Integrator approaches the end of its mission, FLARES again climbs into the sky with a recovery rope attached. There, it performs Insitu’s well-proven maritime retrieval method and then lowers Integrator to the ship’s deck or the landing area to complete the mission.