Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

pp 2525-2560


From Research to Operations: The PITVANT UAS Training Experience

  • Maria da Luz Madruga MatosAffiliated withCentro de Investigação, Academia da Força Aérea Email author 
  • , João Vieira CaetanoAffiliated withCentro de Investigação, Academia da Força Aérea
  • , José A. P. MorgadoAffiliated withCentro de Investigação, Academia da Força Aérea
  • , J. B. de SousaAffiliated withDepartment of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Porto


The PITVANT Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Research and Development (R&D) program training experience is described, including the different crew positions and responsibilities, as well as the several training phases. This is done by presenting the systems engineering methodology behind all the developments carried by the joint team of the Portuguese Air Force Academy and the Porto University, together with the PITVANT UAS architecture and main features. The training program is then described including theoretical classes, written exams, and practical instruction and evaluation. In addition, the process of developing, testing, and validating concepts of operations and the correspondent operational procedures and their training with the involvement of end users is also reported. The current operational capabilities of the systems are explained, showing that the PITVANT program has achieved a level of maturity that enables testing and validation in near real scenarios. This leads to the next step in the systems spiral development that should include, in the near future, the possibility of technology transfer to the industry. The PITVANT program is currently on its fifth year of existence, and the several air vehicles have logged about 730 takeoffs adding up to about 320 h of flight, most of which at the Portuguese Air Force Airbase in Ota, which is permanently assigned to the PITVANT program. Several operators and pilots have been trained under the scope of the program, and currently the team of 20 people operates the different PITVANT UAS on a daily basis. The extremely low accident ratio, of about 0.5 %, is a good indicator of the effectiveness of the training schemes that the research team has implemented.

At the end of the program, the team expects that the UAS have reached a level of maturity that will allow industrialization.