Sonex to modify Navy drone engine

MARYLAND WATCH

October 03, 1997

The Navy has hired Sonex Research Inc. of Annapolis to modify the engine on a flying drone so it can burn a fuel other than gasoline, the company said yesterday.

The drone, known as the Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle, is used to photograph battlefields and enemy troop locations.

Because gasoline is so dangerously flammable, the Navy wants to convert all such craft to a more stable fuel within five years.

Most military vehicles, including jets, run on heavier fuels such as JP-5, JP-8 or diesel fuel. The Navy is paying Sonex close to $88,000 to modify two Pioneer engines to use JP-5 or JP-8 military fuel.

It is a demonstration program, so if the Navy likes Sonex's work, it could hire the company to modify all of its drones.

The contract also contains an option worth another $185,500 to explore techniques for eliminating the need for two-stroke lubricating oil for the Pioneer's engine.

The Pioneer is the product of another Maryland company, AAI Corp. of Hunt Valley, which makes the vehicle in a joint venture with Israel Aircraft Industries International.

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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