April 8, 2010
By Thomas A. Horne
Diamond revealed that a new follow-on design of the DA42M twin, the DA42M-OPV, will have its first flight sometime in September at the Manassas, Va., airport. The unmodified airplane has already arrived at Manassas. The DA42M-OPV is a surveillance platform equipped with video cameras, advanced radar capabilities, and proprietary electronics and software.
The “OPV” stands for optionally piloted vehicle, and it’s being developed with the help of Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas. The idea is to offer a choice of a human pilot or remote, pilotless operation of the airplane, dubbed the “Centaur.” Diamond has experimented with pilotless versions of its DA42 platform in an airplane called the DA42 MPP (multi-purpose platform), but Aurora’s work will expand the concept.
“The DA42M-OPV has roughly the same payload and range performance as the Predator UAV,” said Aurora Flight Science President John Langford. “But it has several important advantages. First, it can be flown with a pilot aboard, which will facilitate operation in the National Airspace System. Second, it has two engines, which gives greater reliability and safety. Third, the Centaur is easily reconfigurable, so it can carry a variety of payloads. Finally, it has low operating costs.”
The OPV’s first mission will be to map the Greenland ice pack, Langford said.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
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