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The operational testing of the Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) system in Virginia will be expanded
The Centaur, a large UAS developed by adding autonomy-enabling technology to the passenger seat of a DA-42 aircraft, provides ultimate flexibility for airborne sensing, testing and training by enabling the aircraft to be flown as a UAS or as a piloted aircraft.
In its unmanned mode, the Centaur can spend 14 to 20 hours in flight to conduct missions that are too dull or dangerous for on-board pilots to execute. For the new Wise County operations, Centaur will either be flown on-board by the pilot, or in the Hybrid mode with an on-board safety pilot.
At first stage, the Centaur OPA system will be used to collect a variety of critical data for the state using advanced sensor technologies.
According to Aurora’s announcement, some of the missions targeted for Centaur include mapping and survey; predicting and detecting forest fires; performing large-area (multi-state) inspections on roads, railroads, power lines, and waterways; performing mineral and vegetation mapping; and conducting emergency management operations.
In addition to gravity measurement collection missions for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Aurora plans to provide Centaur to support Virginia geo-spatial work and other contracted services such as supporting Mountain Empire Community College’splanned Aerial Drone Geo-spatial courses.
The move is aimed at advancing the Virginia Unmanned Systems Commission’s progress toward making the state a leader in the unmanned systems industry, while also establishing Wise County as a research, development and operational hub for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
The company will partner with the Fly Wisely Accelerator Corp, the Virginia-based strategic growth group Drone Airspace Management (DAM), and the County of Wise to establish Centaur service at the airport.