Northrop Grumman and Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, are teaming up to develop a small, unmanned autonomous helicopter system. The Rotary-Bat (R-Bat) is aimed at a range of applications in both urban and rural areas, including search and rescue, power line inspection, border patrol and forest fire observation.

Although Yamaha might be better known for outboard motors and ground-based transportation of the two-wheeled variety, it has been producing remotely-piloted unmanned helicopters for over 25 years. Its RMAX unmanned helicopters have been dusting Japanese crops for over 20 years and have recently been studied for potential use in US agriculture.

It is Yamaha's RMAX platform that the R-Bat helicopter will be based upon, while Northrop Grumman will supply the aircraft's autonomous control systems and sensors. Its name signals that it will join the ranks of Northrop Grumman's existing line of Bat unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that are used for tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications.

"Yamaha Motor has produced remotely-piloted unmanned helicopters for over 25 years," said Toshizumi Kato, president, Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. "Northrop Grumman's merging of our efficient and affordable aircraft with their expertise in autonomous control systems will deliver a unique capability to their Bat UAS portfolio."

Neither company has released technical details of the R-Bat, but being based on the RMAX it should follow that vehicle's measurements of 2,750 mm (9 ft) long (3,630 mm (11.9 ft) with the rotor), 730 mm (2.4 ft) wide and 1,080 mm (3.5 ft) high.

A test flight of the R-Bat unmanned helicopter system can be seen in the following video.

Source: Northrop Grumman