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Northrop Grumman developed the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial system for use by the U.S. Navy, to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support, and precision targeting support. Both the MQ-8B and its predecessor RQ-8A version were derived from Schweizer light helicopter designs, originally in 2002. A later model adopted a Bell 407 airframe. The MQ-8 Fire Scout is powered by a Rolls-Royce 250 turboshaft engine, has a payload capability of 600 lb., and an endurance of eight hours.

IBC Investment Castings Studied for Drones

Oct. 6, 2014
Beralcast components produced, supplied for analysis on U.S Navy UAS Three castings for assembly Part of military development agreement Studying improvements in service life, performance

IBC Engineered Materials recently delivered a series of investment castings for an unmanned aerial systems (UAS, aka a “drone”) to the U.S. Department of Defense's Reliability Information Analysis Center. The producer is an investment casting foundry in Wilmington, MA, and an operating unit of Vancouver-based IBC Advanced Alloys Corp., which manufactures beryllium-based alloys and products.

Three components — parts of an assembly for the U.S. Navy's MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical takeoff UAS — were cast in the company’s Beralcast beryllium-aluminum alloy, as part of a program derived from a development and technical services agreement among IBC, the U.S. Army’s Army Research Lab, and the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command.

That agreement, from 2011, covers identification of suitable component and substructures for commercial-scale manufacturing opportunities using Beralcast ultra-light and high modulus beryllium aluminum alloys.

Beralcast parts also are produced by IBC Engineered Materials and supplied to Lockheed Martin for incorporation to the F-35 Lightning II Electro-Optical Targeting System.

In the more recent case, IBC had been enlisted by Wyle, an aerospace engineering group working on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense's Reliability Information Analysis Center (RIAC), to demonstrate improvements in service life and performance for UAS platforms using Beralcast materials.

RIAC will conduct further tests and evaluation of the parts, the results of which will be available for current and future in-service aircraft programs.

IBC referred noted that UAS system deployments have increased significantly, according to recent studies, and that the market is forecast to grow for both military and commercial applications. It cited a 2013 study predicting UAS spending would double from $5.9 billion annually to $11.3 billion during the coming decade. The same report predicted the U.S. market would account for 77% of R&D and 69% of purchases for UAS.

According to IBC Engineered Materials president Ray White, "IBC's strong materials and aerospace capabilities are ideally suited to UAS applications and can significantly increase subsystem performance and service life, including loiter time and flight range due to reduced payload weight.”

White added that IBC is prepared to manage multiple commercial UAS production programs together with its existing aerospace initiatives.