Perth’s Orbital Corporation Ltd has signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Corporation for the development of a hybrid propulsion system for a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The announcement by Orbital UAV says that it has been tasked to design and develop a hybrid propulsion system which combines an electric motor with the Company’s flight-proven heavy fuel engine,with an emphasis on providing reliability and performance for VTOL UAV applications.

“This new contract of work represents another opportunity for Orbital UAV to expand its customer base of global defence prime contractors and further develop our range of products to meet the evolving needs of the tactical UAV market,” said Todd Alder, CEO and Managing Director of Orbital UAV.

Under the contract, Orbital UAV will develop, supply and support two initial hybrid propulsion systems for integration into Northrop Grumman’s small UAV development platform. Work will be performed at the Company’s production and design facility in Perth, Western Australia.

“The integration of our heavy fuel engine technology with a hybrid propulsion system represents a significant technological step forward for the tactical UAV industry,” said Keith Hirschman, Orbital UAV’s Vice-President for Global Growth. “A hybrid propulsion system will address the growing demand for greater payload power.”

“Northrop Grumman is developing the next generation of VTOL UAVs,” said Rob Sova, director of Northrop Grumman’s Autonomous Systems operating unit. “Orbital UAV will help augment our research and development initiatives in anticipation and support of our customers’ needs.”

Delivery of the two prototype propulsion systems for flight testing is anticipated to occur during 2021, and if successful the project will have the potential to lead to additional commercial production opportunities for Orbital UAV.

Orbital UAV has also recently signed an MoU with one of Singapore’s “largest defence companies” for the design, development and initial low rate production of a multi-fuel UAV engine, while Northrop-Grumman is behind the MQ-8B/C Fire Scout VTOL UAVs that are currently in service with the U.S. Navy.

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