Flexible prototype tools for Neuron

European UAV demonstrator Neuron
The European UAV demonstrator Neuron

The European UAV demonstrator, Neuron, has now been test flown. Saab has developed the fuselage using high-tech flexible prototype tools that save time and money.

Neuron is the first full-size unmanned stealth aircraft to have been developed and produced in Europe. The aircraft is a demonstrator that is optimised for testing and displaying different technologies and key capabilities that can be applied in surveillance and attack missions. Only one aircraft will be built.

Saab's involvement includes the fuselage assembly, employing a technique known as FlexAA (Flexible and Accurate Automation), which is based on totally reconfigurable assembly jig modules.
"It takes time and a great deal of money to design and build jigs for aircraft assemblies. This is not in line with requirements for prototyping where short lead times and cheap manufacturing are very important. With the FlexAA technology, the jig can be designed and built quickly and the flexible jig modules allow changes and additions to the airframe design at a later date. It is therefore an extremely cost-effective method for use in one-off productions such as Neuron," says Magnus Engström, Project Manager for R&D and Industrialisation at Saab.

FlexAA has been developed by Saab together with the University of Linköping and a number of other industrial partners.

Saab's involvement in the Neuron programme includes the fuselage assembly.

Apart from the design and production of Neuron's fuselage, Saab has also worked on the aerodynamics, stealth technology and test flights, as well as having responsibility for the fuel system and avionics in the Neuron programme.

"The Neuron programme has provided experience that further enhances Saab's competitiveness with regards to high-tech and cost-effective development and production methods," says Mats Palmberg, Head of Marketing and Future Products at Saab's Aeronautics Business Area.

Neuron will now undergo further flight testing and it is scheduled to be flown in Sweden in 2014.