IAI has unveiled a new version of its Heron Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone, designated Heron Heron MK II. It is the newest variant of IAI’s MALE family introduced in 1994. The Heron family is operational with the Israeli Air Force and over 20 other organizations worldwide.

According to IAI, Heron II is ready for delivery, fully developed and tested. Photo: IAI

The new variant improves performance over the Mk I variant, by providing a larger, redesigned fuselage and new powerplant optimized for its mission profile. The engine is a derivative of the Rotax 915iS, an aviation certified engine modified specifically for IAI’s requirements for operations at high altitude. While the original engine is rated up to 23,000 ft of altitude, with Heron II the 915is can operate efficiently and reliably at 35,000 ft. The engine also provides sustained power for a maximum speed of 140 knots and faster ascent, improving the drone’s rate of climb by 52 percent. Carrying a 470 kg payload weight the maximum takeoff weight has increased to 1,350 kg., while mission endurance remained at 45 hours.

With a stronger and wider fuselage, Heron II is more adaptive to multi-payload configurations, offering a more spacious payload bay, an integral satellite communications terminal and a separate mission computer, allowing users to introduce changes in the mission system while maintaining airworthiness flight-control functions intact. Heron 2 also incorporates an integral wideband satellite communications link with a backup channel serving multiple payloads simultaneously. The UAV also has a server onboard, providing user access to large amounts of raw or processed sensor data stored on the flight.

IAI has previously offered several members of the Heron family. The T-Heron replacing the Searcher UAS is positioned to support missions at the tactical level, the new Heron II replaces Heron I at the operational-strategic level. For users seeking heavy fuel engine, IAI offers the Super Heron, with performance level like Heron II. For strategic missions requiring heavy payloads and long endurance, IAI positions the turboprop-powered Heron TP/XP and Heron TP heavy MALE drones.

Heron UAS Family Members
Model MTOW (kg) Payload (kg)
Searcher MkIII 450 120/td>
T-Heron 600 180
Heron I 1,150 250
Heron II 1,350 470
Super Heron 1,450 450
Heron TP-XP 5,400 450
Heron TP 5,400 1,000