Dutch developer Delft Dynamics’ RH3 Swift system is to be used in research into rotary-wing UAV operations at sea as part of the Dutch Ministry of Defence’s NEREUS (Naval Long-endurance Robot Helicopter Equipped for Unmanned Surveillance) programme.
NEREUS investigates the safe and cost-effective operation of UAVs from Royal Netherlands Navy, Dutch Coast Guard and other vessels, and determines a UAV’s operational weather limitations and its interactions with ship movements.
The project started early in the New Year and will last for two years, according to the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), which is also involved. The RH3 Swift’s aerodynamic properties will be assessed, with an initial round of flying tests taking place on land ahead of live sea trials in mid-2019 using a test vessel supplied by Damen Naval Shipyards.
The NLR said it would use its previous experience investigating ship-helicopter operations to assess ship-UAV operational limitations. It will also be involved in marinising the RH3 Swift, investigating ways to avoid or reduce the effects of a saltwater environment on the system and to prevent the ship’s antennas from interfering with the UAV’s control systems.
According to Delft Dynamics, the RH3 Swift only requires a working or helicopter deck with a diameter of 4–5m (13–16ft) for take-off and landing. The system is designed for flights of up to six hours at standard load-bearing capacity.
The manufacturer’s website quotes a 5kg (11lb) maximum payload and a 70kts (130km/h) cruise speed. Delft Dynamics says the first RH3 Swift flew on December 14, 2015, with initial tests in 2016 including the structure, rotor and mechanical systems and vibration. Tests took place in 2017 into the system’s flight envelope and performance, including speeds and endurance. Mark Broadbent