Latitude Engineering of Tucson, Arizona USA is developing the Hybrid Quadcopter, a twin-boom unmanned air vehicle combining the capabilities of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) with forward flight. The aircraft exhibits an endurance range roughly equivalent to existing US military systems currently in use but adds the quality of vertical flight which decidedly expands its usefulness - particular on shipboard operations. As such, the United States Navy has shown an interest in the project and will be actively evaluating the product in the latter portion of 2013.
At its core, the Hybrid Quadcopter features a rather conventional UAV-style arrangement incorporating a straight-wing layout, centralized fuselage nacelle and twin-booms with twin rudder fins (dorsal and ventral mounts)) and a single horizontal stabilizer. Where the similarities to conventional UAV systems end is in the powerplant configuration - four rotor blades are positioned, two to each boom with the forward components set ahead of each boom and the rearward components set along the boom length ahead of the tail unit, to provide the necessary vertical lift. A traditional propeller is then affixed to the aft portion of the fuselage nacelle and, along with its main powerplant, provides the required horizontal flight propulsion. In its arrangement, the propeller is set up in a "pusher" configuration meaning that it provides the airframe forward motion from the rear (compared with a "puller" propeller and engine format which "pulls" the aircraft through the air from the front). The fuselage nacelle sits atop the wing spar.
The original Hybrid Quadcopter concept was developed by Latitude Engineering in a 25lb prototype form during 2011 and was configured in a single day after a period of planning. Successful testing then followed to prove the concept sound. From this has come a 60lb form which will feature in US Navy testing for ship-borne usage, able to utilized minimal deck space on space-strapped vessels such as destroyers and frigates. Add in the endurance range of a Predator UAV-class vehicle and the tactical usefulness of an over-the-horizon UAV on the high seas is apparent (Latitude Engineering estimates the Hybrid Quadcopter will achieve an endurance of up to 15 hours).
As it stands, the Hybrid Quadcopter is a fully-autonomous UAV system meaning that it can land, take-off and manage waypoints without user interaction. Due to its hybrid helicopter/aircraft approach, the available software and hardware necessary for the flight actions of the Hybrid Quadcopter was written as an in-house measure from the ground up. Early forms have been powered by an all-electric powerplant while the finalized form is expected to be outfitted with a gas-powered system. Payload capabilities will center around visual, sensor and data-collecting equipment and not armament.
For the United States Navy, the vehicle could fulfill several important roles for its ships at sea.