Engineers at Northrop Grumman’s unmanned systems unit in Rancho Bernardo are asking themselves whether their unmanned aircraft called the Bat could be a little bigger.
The Bat is a 14-foot-wide, propeller-driven aircraft that melds the wing with the body. The military used a fleet of them in Afghanistan.
Engineers are considering building a 16-foot-wide model next year, said a Northrop spokesman, adding that models with 18- or 20-foot wingspans may follow. Larger aircraft could carry larger payloads or could stay in the air longer. Military commanders like unmanned aircraft because they can loiter over a space for a long time.
Northrop calls the medium-altitude Bat an affordable aircraft. The unmanned system is able to fly autonomously.
In addition, the spokesman confirmed a report that Northrop Grumman engineers are experimenting with a small autonomous helicopter made by Yamaha. The Japanese use the craft, which is about as big as a riding lawn mower, for crop dusting. The spokesman, however, said Northrop Grumman is not considering aircraft for civilian uses.
Northrop Grumman calls its machine the Rotary Bat, or R-Bat. Like the Bat, it flies autonomously between waypoints.
Northrop Grumman runs all of its programs related to unmanned aircraft out of Rancho Bernardo and does flight testing at military bases.