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Monday, Sep 26, 2022
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Whirlybird Drone Fires Rockets

It was a big deal when the Predator, the San Diego-built aircraft that leaves its pilot on the ground, first successfully test-fired a missile in 2001.

Now another San Diego company is saying, “Me too.”

San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp. revealed March 2 that it helped an unmanned helicopter system successfully fire unguided rockets.

Engineers conducted the tests in mid-December at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The tests involved 2.75-inch rockets, fired at different speeds and altitudes.

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The unmanned aerial vehicle is a lightweight helicopter called the Vigilante. Advanced Technologies Inc. of Newport News, Va., builds the craft and is the prime contractor for the system. SAIC was heavily involved in the development of the aircraft and its control system.

During the tests, a pilot in a nearby UH-1N Huey helicopter controlled the aircraft and its rockets. SAIC called the tests “an aviation first.”

Predator the aircraft that fired the missiles in 2001 is a product of an entirely different company, San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Brad Graves

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