Design Engineering

Airbus successfully tests new UAV design


General Aerospace airbus uav

SAGITTA is an ‘electronic flying device’ controlled by electromechanical actuators instead of hydraulic components.

Airbus Defence and Space has designed its latest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), SAGITTA. This new type of aircraft has been successfully tested and will enter series production.

sagitta airbus uav

Photo courtesy of Airbus.

Using a pre-programmed course, Airbus tested the unmanned jet-propelled demonstrator at its test site in Overberg, South Africa. The UAV flew completely autonomously for around seven minutes.

This was the first phase of testing, which also included extensive ground tests. The flying-wing construction showed excellent flight characteristics during this test.

The demonstrator is the product of the ‘Open Innovation’ / SAGITTA national initiative launched by Airbus in 2010. Design criteria included a high degree of autonomy, variable mission profiles and low levels of perceptibility.


In order to accomplish this, the research team explored approaches from academic and industrial research, developed these further and incorporated them into solutions for industrial application.

Airbus facilitated the continuous exchange between experts, doctoral students and developers during the development stage.

The unmanned jet-propelled demonstrator vehicle was constructed to a scale of 1:4 and measures 3 metres by 3 metres.

It is designed as a flying wing and is powered by two 300 N turbines. Its maximum take-off weight is 150 kg.

One of the key strengths of the UAV is its shape which provides it with stealth properties. The airframe is designed using carbon fibre composite (CFC).

With the exception of the brakes, it is an ‘electronic flying device’ that is controlled by electromechanical actuators instead of hydraulic components.

The goal of the demonstrator is to gain important insights for next-gen text in unmanned flight systems and to develop the latest products to operational maturity.

“With SAGITTA’s first flight, we have proved just how successful a cooperation between industry and academic partners can be in the area of basic research,” said Grazia Vittadini, Head of Engineering at Airbus Defence and Space.

“We are increasingly shifting our focus towards these kinds of innovative concepts, in particular for the development of UAVs, so that we can develop products quickly and efficiently for a growing market.”

The project sees Airbus working together with institutes from the technical universities of Munich and Chemnitz, the University of the Federal Armed Forces (Universität der Bundeswehr) in Munich, the Ingolstadt University of Applied Sciences and the German Aerospace Centre DLR to jointly develop advanced technologies for unmanned flight. The project started with a feasibility study of the flying-wing configuration.


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