U.S. Army Demos Forward Air Launch of ALTIUS 600 UAV

The U.S. Army has demonstrated the forward air launch of Area-I ALTIUS 600 unmanned air vehicle (UAV) from a helicopter and from a moving vehicle on the ground.

The demonstration, held at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona in early March, was led by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Aviation & Missile Center (AvMC) Technology Development Directorate (TDD).

The demo was the culmination of over a year of buildup, planning and testing and is in line with the Army’s pursuit of leap-ahead technological advances aimed at dominating its adversaries and reaching its Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) goal.

“This may seem like just another event – like ‘well, we’ve done another experiment, we’ve done another demonstration’ – but this is the capstone,” said Col. Matthew Isaacson, Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team (FVL CFT) chief of operations.

“These unmanned aircraft can fly low, they can fly high and they’re small enough to be survivable and they are attritable enough to not need to be rescued,” Isaacson said.

“The thing that makes it unique… first of its kind is the fact that it’s done at a tactical altitude in forward flight, which means that as the air-launched effect [ALE] – that air vehicle – comes out of the tube in forward flight, the rotor system is producing downwash to keep the helicopter aloft and to move it forward … and the ALE must fly through that,” explained Carvil E.T. Chalk, CCDC AvMC TDD deputy director for aviation technology.

Area-I ALTIUS Launch from UH-60 Back Hawk
An Area-I ALTIUS is launched from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., on March 4, 2020. (Courtesy photo)

“To date, we’ve only launched from high altitudes which are not survivable in the current battle space,” said Nate Bordick, AvMC TDD-Aviation intelligent teaming lead.

With the ultimate goal of gathering intelligence in real-time, ALTIUS (Air-Launched, Tube-Integrated, Unmanned System) can be manually flown with a handheld remote or programmed by a ground control station where it can be commanded to navigate to a certain point. Designed to be recoverable, ALTIUS – an orange tubular object with wings that unfold once it self-stabilizes after being launched – can be set to land on any relatively-level surface.

The ALTIUS provides the ability to locate the enemy and relay information that will ultimately be used to protect the Warfighter.

An Area-I ALTIUS sails through the skies at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., March 4, 2020. (Jose Mejia-Betancourth/U.S. Army CCDC AvMC Technology Development Directorate)


Area-I’s Air-Launched, Tube-Integrated, Unmanned System or ALTIUS was conceived in 2011 under an Air Force SBIR contract to develop a high-endurance air-frame that would store and launch from the Air Force’s Common Launch Tube (CLT) to conduct Information, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The ALTIUS is an integral part of the Air-Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Tactical Off-Board Sensing (TOBS) program.

Area-I has also developed an ALTIUS variant for the Navy, which was designed to launch from the smaller Sonobuoy Launch Container (SLC). This variant was specifically tailored to conduct Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) missions and carries a sensitive magnetometer which is used to detect submarines for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).

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