Quadrocopters like the AR.Drone and Datron Scout may have been hogging the UAS limelight lately but Dutch unmanned rotorcraft system manufacturer Geocopter has shown there's still life in the traditional helicopter design yet with the official delivery of its first light unmanned helicopter called the GC-201. Designed and built just like a normal helicopter, the GC-201 features a twin gas turbine engine propulsion system, lightweight carbon fiber fuselage and full automatic takeoff, mission and landing capabilities.
The GC-201 has a cruising speed of 40 kts (74 km/h /46 mph) and an operational ceiling of 2,000 m (6,500 ft.). With a maximum takeoff weight of 90 kg (198 lb), the GC-201 has the ability to carry a sensor payload of up to 30 kg (66 lb) for flights lasting up to 2.5 hours. Available plug and play sensors include gimbaled video, thermal infrared and still camera, small and medium format digital cameras, airborne lidar scanner, passive microwave radiometer, multispectral camera and Mini-SAR system.
The ability to easily swap between various sensor payloads makes the GC-201 suitable for usual range of applications that such craft are designed for: real-time aerial support to emergency services, search and rescue operations, environmental and traffic monitoring, mapping, and, of course, security and defense. Earlier this year the GC-201 received official flight approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Netherlands for operation in civil airspace.
The GC-201 can also operate either fully automatically or semi-automatically, with smooth transition between the two modes. In fully automatic mode the aircraft will navigate using waypoints, while semi-automatic mode allows a pilot to take the joystick on the included pilot station.
Making an appearance at the 2011 Paris Air Show - although not taking to the skies - the first GC-201 off the production line will go to Geocopter's launching customer (and development partner), the Netherland's National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR). NLR is a not-for-profit organization for applied aerospace research and development in the Netherlands.
"This is another successful result of our mission as NLR to support the national industry and innovate for and with Dutch companies, either big or small, like Geocopter," said Michel Peters, CEO of NLR when handed over the title of ownership for the GC-201. Peters also thanked the Netherlands Ministry of Defence, which partially supported the program and will presumably find a use or two for the aircraft.
Geocopter's GC-201 is available now and comes with the GC-201, pilot station, data and video link, spare engines, generator and transport case.