Marconi Avionics Ltd achieved the first flight of an air vehicle of its own, MACHAN (pronounced Ma’shann), on 27 November 1980, taking off from a radio -controlled trolley. The first flight from the pneumatic launcher was made on 7 April 1981.

The unusual shape of MACHAN derived from its role as an unmanned aircraft, to carry specialised miniature, electronics payloads, including surveillance equipment. It typified a new kind of air vehicle, capable of operating under remote control, over battlefields or other areas of interest. With a 12 foot wingspan and an 18 hp two-stroke engine it could carry 33lbs (15 kg) of payload for two hours, landing at a chosen spot, on fibreglass skids.

The MACHAN programme,  was sponsored by the UK Ministry of Defence (Procurement Executive) and Marconi Avionics, included development and proving of the air research vehicle, the ground control station and the all- important electronics payloads. As well as managing the overall programme the Company  developed these payloads and produced the aircraft’s advanced attitude and motion sensing system, the datalink and microprocessor-based ground control equipment.The latter was contained in a ground station provided by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.

The Cranfield Institute of Technology is a major subcontractor to Marconi Avionics for the airframe, powerplant and advanced digital flight control system.

MACHAN, a name which derives from the old Hindi word for a treetop surveillance platform, represented one of several involvements by Marconi Avionics in unmanned aircraft, leading to the Phoenix UAV. This led to the development of lightweight surveillance payloads, including television systems, and associated control and datalink equipment.

MACHAN was an important vehicle for the development and evaluation of new payloads and for exploring the necessary operational procedures to be used with future unmanned aircraft.

Brief details of MACHAN

Industry involvement:

1.      Marconi Avionics Ltd

Flight Automation Research Laboratory,

Rochester, Kent (programme management system integration, ground control equipment).

Electro-optical Surveillance Division, Basildon. Essex (surveillance payload and data links)

Gyro Division, Rochester, Kent (strapdown body motion sensor package).

2.      Cranfield Institute of Technology

Cranfield Bedfordshire (airframe, powerplant and flight control system).

Both organisations are closely involved with the RAE in the flight test programme.

Aircraft description

Fixed shoulder-wing monoplane with ducted pusher propeller, powered by Weslake twin cylinder 18 hp two-stroke petrol engine. Diamond cross section fuselage with flying controls on empannage comprising all-flying to ‘tailerons’ and rudder.

 Leading particulars of model 01: length 7 foot (2.13 m), wingspan initially, 12 feet (3.66 m), (to be reduced after initial handling trials), max speed (level flight) 115 kt (59 m/s), cruising speed 64 kt (33 m/s), Gross t.o.w.161lbs(73 kg), payload 33lbs (15 kg), endurance (at cruising speed) two hours. Launch from tricycle drop-off undercarriage, recovery by conventional approach or, in emergency, by parachute.

Avionics digital, microprocessor-based flight control system with 68 MHz command link. Stability augmentation and attitude reference from three axis ‘strapdown’ sensor package. Command and telemetry facilities can be used in conjunction with the ground station computer for investigating outer loop control without modifying equipment on board. First payload (picture available) contains a non-gimballed TV camera to include stabilised, steerable imaging sensors.

Years Manufactured: 1980 - 1981

Platform Type: Fixed Wing, Unmanned

Initial Maker:

Final Maker: Not Applicable