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Scaled Composites Proteus

Scaled Composites Proteus

Scaled Composites Proteus

Scaled Composites Proteus

Scaled Composites Proteus


The Proteus, designed by Burt Rutan and produced by his company Scaled Composites, is an odd looking aircraft which is designed to operate for extended periods of time at high altitudes.

It was originally conceived as an aircraft which could be used for a variety of specialist roles including atmospheric sampling, reconnaissance, earth-monitoring scientific research, and as a mobile telecommunications relay platform. In addition to its multipurpose mission abilities, the Proteus was also designed to be cheap to run (compared to similar aircraft), and easy to operate and maintain.

The Proteus has a highly unusual means of control. It can be flown either by two pilots seated in the aircraft, or it can be flown unmanned and controlled from the ground. It can even operate in a semiautonomous mode where it flies itself.

The Scaled Composites Proteus is constructed using a lightweight airframe which utilizes advanced composite materials. The wingspan is normally 77 feet 7 inches (23.6 m). But with the optional wingtips installed the wingspan stretches to 92 feet (28 m). The aircraft is 56.3 feet long (17.1 m), and weighs a mere 5,900 lbs (2,676 kgs). Power for the aircraft comes from a pair of Williams FJ44-2 turbofan engines mounted towards the rear of the aircraft over the rear wing. The engines produce a combined total of 4,600 pounds of thrust.

Proteus underwent its first round of testing from mid-1998 to the end of 1999. Later the aircraft was fitted with an advanced autopilot and satellite communications system by NASA as part of their Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) project. During this time the Proteus did everything it was asked to, and it contributed significantly to the program.

NASA then equipped the Scaled Composites Proteus with a compact Airborne Real-Time Imaging System (ARTIS) which could take pictures from the air and then almost instantaneously relay the images to a ground control station. This led to the Proteus being used as a testbed for trying out and experimenting with systems designed for use in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). One of the areas which was explored was an automated system for detecting other aircraft and making course and altitude changes to keep a safe distance. This system proved to be a great success and elements of the collision-avoidance technology were integrated into both the Skywatch and the OASys detection systems for UAVs.

The Scaled Composites Proteus isn't done yet either, as NASA have indicated that they may use the aircraft in the future for studies into other types of automated detection for use in the next-generation of UAVs.





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