The Cypher, a ducted rotor aircraft with a composite shroud structure, fly-by-wire controls, integrated avionics, and an onboard mission computer, can be equipped with a variety of payloads, such as sensor packages, weighing up to 40 lbs. The symmetrical, rounded shroud safely encloses the rotor system, and produces a low signature. The vehicle can operate autonomously according to a preplanned mission scenario, or under ground control via a datalink. Cypher has a hover capability, three hour flight endurance, and its top speed of 70 knots enables flights out to 25 Km.

Flight demonstrations of the Cypher technology demonstrator aircraft were conducted by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. for both military and civil applications. These demonstrations include capabilities such as ground and naval surveillance, communications relay and countermeasures missions, as well as such non-defense roles as counter-narcotics, ordnance disposal, forestry, utilities, law enforcement and search and rescue.

The Cypher UAV is 6.5 feet in diameter. It combines the efficiency of a ducted airstream with a coaxial advancing blade concept rotor system. The rotors and the circular shroud surrounding them will share in providing lift. Powered by a 50-horsepower class engine, Cypher will be able to cruise at 80 knots, for up to three hours, with a ceiling of 8,000 feet. Cypher shares both automatic target detection and fly-by-wire flight control systems with the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopter being developed for the Army.

As an autonomous, or "smart" air vehicle, Cypher holds position and navigates using a differential Global Positioning System. The air vehicle is able to fly "hands-off," instead of being flown directly by a ground operator. It also demonstrated an ability to land remotely, camera-directed by its onboard television, on slopes of as much as 15 degrees. Confined area operations showed it taking off and landing between obstructions about 12 feet apart.

The enclosed rotor concept developed by Sikorsky is safer than exposed UAV rotor systems. The Cypher design, with the rotor system inside a shroud, minimizes the hazard of exposed high speed rotor blades to ground personnel. The Cypher incorporates composite structures, bearingless rotors, fly-by-wire flight controls, advanced avionics. It is easy to operate and utilizes a centralized computer, called the vehicle mission processor, for execution of flight control laws, vehicle management functions, navigational computations, flight payload management and air vehicle communications.

Cypher's autonomous flight modes are auto take-off and landing, position hover-hold, altitude hold, velocity hold, waypoint navigation and auto return home. Implementation of the return-home mode allows the operator to command the vehicle back to the original launch point - or any other predetermined location - with just the push of a button.

The Cypher vehicle is controlled and monitored from an integrated mobile ground station. The entire mission can be planned, executed and monitored from a single system manager display. Vehicle and payload commands, from the system manager, are relayed to the aircraft via a digital telemetry uplink. Aircraft status, mission data, test data and payload video are merged into a single data downlink signal that is transmitted to the control van.

The air vehicle accumulated about 400 flight hours at Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., and at various U.S.government demonstrations.

In a demonstration at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) site at Fort Benning, Ga., Cypher flew down streets, landed on a building's roof and strategically placed different payloads. For the U.S. Army's Autonomous Rotorcraft Testbed (ASRT) program, Cypher - with no operator input - searched and tracked man-size targets. For the U.S. Department of Energy, Cypher used magnetometers to search and locate underground structures and tunnels in Nevada. In September 1997, Cypher flew at the Army's Force Protection Equipment Demonstration in Virginia.

Other Cypher demonstrations included flights at Indiana's Jefferson Proving Ground for detection of unexploded ordinance and the Army Military Police School at Fort McClellan, Ala., where the UAV took part in a drug interdiction exercise.

The Multipurpose Security and Surveillance Mission Platform (MSSMP), started in FY'92 as the Air-Mobile Ground Security and Surveillance System (AMGSSS), is designed to provide a rapidly deployable, extended-range surveillance capability for a variety of operations and missions, including: fire control, force protection, tactical security, support to counterdrug and border patrol operations, signal/communications relays, detection and assessment of barriers (i.e., mine fields, tank traps), remote assessment of suspected contaminated areas (i.e., chemical, biological, and nuclear), and even resupply of small quantities of critical items. The MSSMP system consists of three air-mobile remote sensing packages and a base station.

The MSSMP sensor packages may operate as portable stand-alone units, or from air-mobile platforms. The current design of the air-mobile platforms is based on the Sikorsky Cypher enclosed-rotor vertical-take-off-and-landing unmanned air vehicle. This air-mobile platform carries its sensor package from one ground surveillance location to another, up to 10 km from the base station.

A portable mission payload prototype package was developed by a team of SSC engineers and scientists, and an additional payload package was integrated onto the Cypher vehicle by Sikorsky and SSC engineers. In May 1996, the system was successfully demonstrated at the Military Police School at Ft. McClellan, AL, in a simulated counter-drug operation. The man-portable sensor package mounted on a ground vehicle-of-opportunity and the Cypher-mounted sensor package were operated simultaneously over the same radio network.

In January 1997, the MSSMP system's expanded role was demonstrated in a Military Operations in Urban Terrain scenario at the Dismounted Battlespace Battle Laboratory, Ft. Benning, Georgia. The system demonstrated reconnaissance support with the vehicle flying down city streets, looking through upper- and lower-story windows, providing lookout support ahead of advancing troops, and performing observations after landing on the roof of a two story building. The vehicle also dropped a simulated radio relay on the top of a building, a miniature intrusion detector in an open field, and carried a standard Army laser rangefinder/designator as a payload.

The AMGSSS concept grew from NRaD's experience with the Ground Air Telerobotic System (GATERS) program, initiated in 1986 by the United States Marine Corps. NRaD (then the Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC)) was the principle development agent on the system. GATERS consisted of a land-based, Tele-Operated Vehicle (TOV) and the Airborne Remotely Operated Device (AROD). The TOV was developed to perform remote reconnaissance/surveillance with direct fire and target designation/ranging capabilities. The TOV was based on a High-Mobility-Multi-Wheeled-Vehicle (HMMWV) platform for which AROD provided airborne reconnaissance and surveillance. Experience with the TOV demonstrated the value of remotely operated reconnaissance systems and also demonstrated that a full time operator and high-bandwidth data-link is required for effective mobility. The TOV utilized a fiber-optic communications link to provide the required bandwidth in non-line-of-sight situations. The military users did not want to be encumbered with the fiber-optic tethers and preferred that one operator be able to supervise several remote systems.

The AROD was a ducted fan VTOL air vehicle that could easily translate through the air and provide aerial surveillance. The AROD was controlled from a portable ground control station over a fiber-optic data-link, with a radio control link as a back up. AROD had limited flight endurance and payload capabilities. The AMGSSS concept marries the rapid mobility and low-data-rate control aspects of VTOL platforms with the long endurance surveillance capabilities of the unmanned ground vehicles.

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