The Centaur Optionally-Piloted Aircraft (OPA) from Aurora Flight Sciences recently flew from Virginia’s Manassas Regional Airport to the Emmen Military Airfield in Switzerland, piloted by an onboard crew.

The OPA can be flown in both manned and unmanned configurations. A third flight configuration, the hybrid mode, allows for control from the ground. The hybrid flight mode facilitates flight operations that are identical to an unmanned aircraft, but utilizes a safety pilot to watch for other aircraft or take over control in an emergency. The conversion between manned and unmanned flight modes takes four hours to complete.

Centaur is based on the successful Diamond Aircraft DA42MNG, a four-seat twin-engine heavy fuel aircraft specifically designed to deploy airborne sensors. Centaur is the world’s first OPA to retain its FAA and EASA Normal Category Airworthiness Certification in the manned flight mode with the ability to provide its full functionality for unmanned flight. Centaur is able to carry its own ground control station, making it the world’s first self-deployable unmanned aircraft system.

After installing the OPA equipment and preparing the site of Aurora’s Ground Control Station, Armasuisse, the official procurement agency of the Swiss Department of Defense, will use Centaur as a flying test bed.

Aurora Flight Sciences
Manassas, VA

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