January 26, 2006 Bell Helicopter’s TR918 Eagle Eye Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) lifted off the ground for the first time yesterday, hovered for nine minutes, executed yaw and translation manoeuvres and then landed safely. It then undertook a second flight within 30 minutes of the maiden flight's landing. We have previously written about the TR918 here - the Eagle Eye uses the same tiltrotor system as a number of other Bell-Boeing VTOL designs, most notably the V-22 Osprey (Bell - Boeing)and the Quad TiltRotor.
"This is a tremendous achievement for Bell Helicopter and our Team Eagle Eye partners," said Mike Redenbaugh, chief executive officer of Bell Helicopter. "An immense amount of effort and dedication has gone into getting this aircraft in the air successfully."
According to Bob Ellithorpe, executive director of Bell's Unmanned Aircraft Systems, reaching this milestone was worth all the hard work and then some. "Eagle Eye offers a capability never seen in the UAS industry," Ellithorpe explained. "In the hands of our Coast Guard Homeland Defenders and all other potential users, Eagle Eye will successfully accomplish a number of critical missions including the most important mission, saving lives. Reaching this first flight milestone puts us one step closer to getting this unmatched capability in the field," Ellithorpe said.
First flight of the TR918 comes on the heels of recently receiving a certificate of airworthiness for experimental flight-testing from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The TR918 test program will continue advancing the tilt rotor nacelles to full airplane mode and increasing speed and payload capabilities. "There is a lot of hard work ahead for the Eagle Eye development and testing team," Ellithorpe said. "But, today we are going to celebrate this first flight achievement."