An AH-64D Apache (top) and AH-6U Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) fly over the Arizona desert (photo : Boeing)
MESA, Ariz., -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced that the AH-64D Apache Block III prototype helicopter successfully demonstrated Level IV unmanned aircraft system (UAS) connectivity on June 8 during a flight test over the Arizona desert.
Level IV UAS connectivity is one of the key technology enhancements being developed for the U.S. Army's Apache Block III attack helicopter program. At this level, the Apache crew is able to fully control the navigation of an assigned UAS. The capability provides enhanced situational awareness and over-the-horizon, beyond line-of-sight reconnaissance, improving survivability for the crew and the aircraft. (Level I connectivity is receipt and transmission of secondary imagery or data, Level II is receipt of imagery or data directly from the UAS and Level III is control of the UAS payload).
During the test, the Apache proved capable of controlling the UAS via a Tactical Common Data Link connection. The Apache crew received real-time video from the UAS, controlled the UAS's three navigation-loiter patterns -- orbit, racetrack and figure eight -- and altered the UAS's airspeed and altitude.
For this demonstration, Boeing, under Army direction, used a Boeing AH-6 helicopter as a surrogate for Sky Warrior, the Extended Range/Multi-Purpose UAS that is not yet available.
"Integration of UAS control is a key technology for the Apache Block III helicopter as we prepare for the limited user test scheduled for later this year," said Scott Rudy, Boeing Apache Block III program manager. "The members of Team Apache -- the U.S. Army, Boeing and our industry partners -- are proud to have achieved this critical capability."