Saturday, June 16, 2007

Where are the pilots?!

Unmanned aircraft are becoming popular displays at airshows, admittedly, only few of them actually fly here. In fact, much of the innovation is directed into unmanned platforms, offering shorter development cycles and faster time to market. UAVs are proposed primarily for military applications, but civilian uses are also on the horizon.

In the following images, show few of the new unmanned systems displayed here at the 47th Paris Airshow. First we present the largest versions, also known as Medium-Altitude Long Endurance MALE

An Armed Predator MQ-1B, configured with an MTS payload and specially modified versions of the Hellfire laser guided missile. Operated by the US Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan.

IAI unveiled the Heron 2, a MALE unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also known as Heron TP or by its IAI designation Eitan. In Paris, the real aircraft is on display. The Heron TP (Turbo-Prop) is the largest UAV built Israel to date. Its wings span over 26 meters, length is 14 meters. Heron TP is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop engine developing 1200 hp. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 4650 kg carrying a mission payload of over 1,000 kg. It is designed to operate at an altitude of 45,000 ft, above the commercial aviation routes. Heron TP can stay on a mission for 36 hours, and as it uses a satellite communications link, its range is not limited by line-of sight communications. Heron TP was displayed with different payloads, including radar and electro-optical payoads. Quad launchers of Lahat missiles were also displays, hinting on an optionally armed configuration of such UAV.

A full scale model of the Hermes-900 was unveiled by Elbit Systems. Hermes 900 is an outgrowth of the hermes platform, selected for operation or currently operational with five military forces including Israel's military, Singapore, and the UK (for the Watchkeeper program). The Hermes 900 will be able to operate by the same units operating the Hermes 450, supported by the same ground equipment and payloads. It will be able to carry heavier payloads of up to 300 kg for longer missions.

Global Hawk is a familiar face at the airshows. This year, Northrop Grumman is showing the RQ-4B and RQ-4N in scaled-down models, depicting the special configurations for the Navy's maritime patrol and Air Force's HALE missions.

A surprising exhibit was unveiled by the Chinese company AVIC I, showing two model versions of unmanned systems, a jet powered High Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) platform and a fast recce super-drone called DarkSword. Defense Update will try to collect more details on these platform later during the show. Your comments on this new and intruiging UVS are welcome!.

EADS is also demonstrating a 1:10 model of a new MALE UAV concept, which is unique in its modularity. The aircraft is configured as a main module, which includes the airframe, twin engines avionics, controls and tail section. Two sets of wings are designes, a high aspect ratio and low aspect ratio wing. Payloads are also modular, providing SAR, MPR and EO systems. A satellite communications module can be placed on the upper front section, or, when line of sight is sufficient, the section will be covered by a flat cover. EADS also displays the Sharc rotary wing demonstrator which recently passed its maiden flight test. The Sharc joined other EADS rotary UAS already shown in the past, including the Orca shipborne VTUAV and small Scorpio systems, which included this year the small Scorpio 8 and medium size Scorpio 30 systems.

No comments: