Killer Bee UAS

Mobile blended wing unmanned aerial vehicle

Customer: RnD
Industry: Defense
Services: Design, Engineering, Analysis, and Manufacturing
Swift Engineering's First Aerospace Product

Swift started to diversify into aerospace structures and systems engineering in 2001 by developing its own product, the mobile blended wing body unmanned aerial vehicle called the Swift Killer Bee. By 2008 it had a 12 ft. [3.7 m] wingspan, traveled at ~100 knots, and could carry over 100 lbs. [45 kg] of payload. It was commercialized and purchased by Northrop in 2009 and renamed the Northrop BAT. The Killer Bee is a catapult launch and net recovery UAS system, that included the development of the ground control station (GCS), communication systems, system integration, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) part selection for reduced costs, engine selection and design, airframe manufacturing, manufacturing trade studies, and flight test, product manuals, and training documented all in 30 weeks.

Compression molded, trapped rubber technique to reduce weight

The 1 foot x 4 foot wing section, is press-cured in a steel tool using Swift’s compression molded, trapped rubber technique that is extremely effective for reducing weight compared to a traditional autoclave cure with post-processing methods. This process has helped Swift with speed-to-market demonstrators, especially the rapidly developing Killer Bee. The additional weight reduction reward is achieved by reducing the part count and eliminating the reliance on multiple bond-lines or fasteners in the wing’s structural components.

Modular Expeditionary Unmanned System

The Killer Bee composite airframe is routinely subjected to extreme loads that are abnormal for most traditional airplanes due to its runway independence. The air vehicle is launched into flight with a pneumatic launch cradle and recovered by flying directly into a large net. Due to the airframe’s repeated exposure to intense recovery loads without recurring damage, Swift has been able to validate its composite design, analysis, and manufacturing methods through field data.

Runway-independent, ship launch and recoverable, and fully autonomous, the Killer Bee UAS launches from a rail launcher and recovers into a portable net. It is a fully modular system using a four-fastener interface for all line replaceable units, allowing quick component changes or mission-specific load-outs. The composite framed recovery net was designed using primarily COTS components, filament wound composite tubing, and was designed to have quick assembly and transport in mind.