Apache in the News
Boeing AH–64D Apache Block III Demonstrates Level IV UAS
By Lisa Dunbar
Mike Goettings Photo
The AH-64D Apache Block III achieved a significant technical capability on June 8, 2009 with the successful demonstration of Level IV unmanned aircraft system (UAS) control during a flight test over the Arizona desert.
Level IV UAS control is one of the key technology enhancements being developed for the U.S. Army’s Apache Block III attack helicopter program.
At level IV, the Apache crew can control the navigation and payload of a UAS. This capability provides enhanced situational awareness, improving survivability for the crew and the aircraft.
The ground-station operator still launches the UAS and hands over flight control to the Apache. Level I control is indirect receipt of secondary imagery or data, Level II is receipt of imagery or data directly from the UAS and Level III is control of the UAS payload.
During the test, the Apache proved capable of controlling the UAS via a Tactical Common Data Link connection. The Apache crew received real-time video from the UAS, altered the UAS’s navigation flight path numerous times using three loiter patterns -- orbit, racetrack and figure eight -- and changed the UAS’s airspeed and altitude.
For this demonstration, Boeing, under Army direction, used a Boeing AH-6 variant helicopter known as the Unmanned Little Bird, as a surrogate for Sky Warrior, the Extended Range/Multi-Purpose UAS that is still in development. “Integration of UAS control is a key technology for the Apache Block III helicopter as we prepare for the limited user test scheduled for later this year,” said Scott Rudy, Boeing Apache Block III program manager. “Members of Team Apache -- the U.S. Army, Boeing and our industry partners -- are proud to have achieved this critical capability.”