Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy successfully flew the second MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter for the first time. Conducted at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif., the flight will allow the team to ramp up testing efforts to prepare the system for operations.
Current tests are focused on validating the flight capabilities of the MQ-8C before ship-based flights take place this summer.
“The addition of the second MQ-8C means we can begin testing on more components and equipment needed to operate the system as an intelligence-gathering platform,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems at Northrop Grumman. “This includes installing and conducting tests on the full sensor suite.”
Fire Scout uses on-board sensors to capture full-motion video, identify targets and then distribute the information in real time to various users. This allows ship-based commanders to maintain awareness of a specified area or keep an eye on a target of interest for long periods of time.
“Flight testing has been very successful since the system’s first flight Oct. 31,” said Vardoulakis. “We’ve completed 41 flights totaling 66 hours. This accomplishment points back to the maturity of the MQ-8C’s autonomous control systems that allow the aircraft to operate as an unmanned system.”
Press Release, February 17, 2014; Image: Northrop Grumman