Optionally piloted vehicle

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An optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) is a hybrid between a conventional aircraft and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Able to fly with or without a human crew on board the aircraft, OPVs are a low-cost alternative to UAVs in research, experimentation, and concept exploration, but may also become used in mainstream operations as familiarity with them increases. Unimpeded by a human's physiological limitations, an OPV is able to operate under more adverse conditions and/or for greater endurance times. Retaining on-board controls, the OPV can operate as a conventional aircraft during missions for which direct human control is preferred or desired as an immediate option.

The US Naval Postgraduate School Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Studies (CIRPAS) in Monterey, California operates a highly modified Cessna 337, O2, Skymaster OPV. Called Pelican, the OPV provides a low-risk, low-cost test and evaluation alternative to a Predator UAV. The Pelican has also provided UAV support to military exercises which otherwise would not have had access to a real UAV due to cost, availability, or FAA restrictions.[1] The Northrop Grumman Firebird is classified as an OPV.[2][3] The National Test Pilot School certified an extensivley modified Cessna 150 as an Optionally Piloted Aircraft for use as a training device to aid instruction of flight testing unmanned systems.

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