Freewing Technology

Medium Altitude Endurance study conducted by Center for Naval Analysis

The main criteria CNA posited for a MAE UAV appropriate for shipboard ops :

24 hours on station at 500 mmi
Takeoff weight under 3000 pounds
Extremely short takeoff and landing (ESTOL) for minimal impact to flight deck operations
300 pound payload capability
Mechanical simplicity

The CNA study

In 1999 CNA performed a comparative analysis of four shipboard ops concept UAVs: (i) fixed-wing UAV, (ii) STOVL tilt-rotor, (iii) low disc-loading helicopter UAV, and (iv) freewing tilt-body UAV. Preliminary conclusions about their relative merits are listed in this table, and led to a more rigorous study, portions of which we excerpt, below:



Low Disc-Loading Helo

Freewing Tilt-Body

A 2-stroke diesel, fixed-wing UAV would have the range and endurance required, but would not be easily integrated into carrier operations.
A V/STOL UAV, such as the tilt-rotor, could be better integrated into flight deck operations but severely compromises range and endurance.
Sensitive to turbulence, especially wake turbulence downwind of superstructure during landing ops.
The only air vehicle concept that seems to be able to (in theory) satisfy these objectives is the Freewing, tilt-body concept.
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Following are links to three relevant excerpts from that 1999 CNA comparative analysis. The point design visualization arrived at for a MAE freewing tilt-body suitable for shipboard ops is shown at the right. And an animation of ConOps is shown below.
Below is a short animation of a freewing tilt-body vehicle that is along the lines of a medium-altitude endurance UAV of a design suitable for shipborne launch and recovery.