NLR is planning to hold flight training sessions for large Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (commonly known as drones) at Twente Airport, which was reopened last week. Operating large drones requires an airport with appropriate facilities. NLR has chosen Twente Airport as a training location by way of expansion of its facilities at the Netherlands RPAS Test Centre (NRTC) in Marknesse. NRTC has been in full use for several years (with 2700 landings in 2016), but it does not have a long, asphalted runway.
For some time NLR has been working on the development of large drones of approx. 4 by 4 metres. These activities are part of the EU CleanSky 2 SCALAIR (SCALed AIRcraft) project, which aims to design and build a flying scale model of a commercial aircraft. The purpose of developing this scale model is to demonstrate the relationship between the flight behaviour of the scale model vs. the full-scale aircraft.
These developments are in line with NLR’s SMARD programme (Scale Model Aircraft Research & Development), and are also closely related to the NOVAIR project (Novel Aircraft Configurations and Scaled Flight Testing Instrumentation), through CleanSky 2. All these initiatives assist the development of hybrid commercial aircraft, contributing to a more sustainable aviation sector.
The free-flying dynamically scaled model is powered by two jet engines and will be relatively large and heavy (approx. 120 kg). NLR has therefore decided to set up an intensive training course for its drone operators. To this end, several relatively large model airplanes have been purchased, namely a propeller trainer with a wing span of 4.45 metres and a take-off weight of 55 kg and a jet trainer with a wing span of 2.4 metres and a take-off weight of 15 kg. The propeller trainer will primarily be deployed to let operators get used to the size of the aircraft and the heavier take-off weight. The jet trainer will be used to gain experience in operating scaled aircraft powered by jet engines.
The training flights with both the propeller trainer and the jet trainer are expected to start early summer 2017, aiming to be ready for the first real flight with the dynamically scaled commercial aircraft by the summer of 2018. NLR is looking forward to making use of the extensive facilities offered by Twente Airport to realize these goals. Moreover, NLR foresees further collaboration with Twente Airport with respect to drone development, deployment and regulations.