Extensive development efforts have been invested in unmanned systems, which are gradually being integrated into modern warfare. Many companies displayed unmanned systems technologies at Eurosatory 2006, including small and miniature aerial vehicles, (UAVs), unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) of various sizes. Developers exhibited models of both types designed for carrying remotely operated systems, sensors and weapon. The exhibition provided a venue to introduce several new systems, including the Sperwer B armed UAV (shown by Sagem carrying two Spike LR missiles). Just prior to the show Sagem reported that Greece is planning to double the numbers of Sperwer UAVs in its inventory.
Several new Israeli UAVs were unveiled, including the Skylark II from Elbit Systems and the I-View 50 from IAI/Malat, which also released details about its miniature Pelican hand launched micro-UAV. Another new Micro UAV is the Modular Airborne Sensor (MAS) from Patria. Even smaller Micro-UAVs were displayed by Cyberflight, as part of their newly launched SOD family of vehicles. New propulsion techniques for UAVs were also demonstrated by Bental Industries, showing the 4KW electrical motor used by the Skylark II and a new hybrid propulsion system, utilizing an internal combustion engine and an alternator / electrical cruise 2KW electrical motor which can be used for extended “silent phases” of the UAV mission. Hybrid system is considered as one of the propulsion options for IAI’s I-View 50. (The hybrid system is shown below left).
Many armed forces are currently fielding, or will soon field, mini-UAVs. The leading supplier of mini-UAVs is Aeronvironment, which has manufactured more than 1,000 units of their Raven model. At Eurosatory 2006 Aeronvironment demonstrated new models, including the larger, more sophisticated Puma and their smaller, Wasp micro UAV. Elbit Systems already delivered units of the Skylark I to the IDF, Australian Army and most recently – the Canadian armed forces.
EADS is delivering a total of 160 DRAC Close-Range Reconnaissance UAVs under a contract awarded by DGA. The system was originally designed to be an “extended pair of binoculars” utilizing an 8kg autonomous aerial vehicle enabling the operator to gather, display and process real-time images at distances up to 10 km by day or night. DRAC is scheduled to become operational with the French Army by 2007. EADS also demonstrated the Scorpio 6 rotary wing UAV, designed for operations in urban terrain. This miniature helicopter can operate at ranges of up to 10 km, equipped with interchangeable EO/IR payloads. The vehicle communicates with the portable ground station via digital datalink. Both Scorpio and DRAC and their payloads were developed by the French UAV specialist Surveycopter.
Progress is made with heavier Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAS, as evident by the appearance of several new systems. The IAI/Malat Hoverspy, a new VTOL UAS from Israel is an autonomous, 20kg VTOL platform, designed for all- terrain operation while carrying a 5 kg payload for a 90 minute mission. It can fly an autonomous mission based on GPS navigation, and offers continuous payload control by the operator. Heavier systems include the new V-150 Skeldar from Saab, which was unveiled at the show. Much progress has been made with the Sciebel S100 autonomous helicopter. Its El-Saber version developed for the UAE is currently undergoing testing in the Middle East. Both these systems weigh more than 100 kg per unit.
Other systems in this category are much smaller; the Class I UAV developed for the US Forces FCS program was displayed at the Honeywell stand. The French equivalent is the Hovereye from Bertin, which has been selected for incorporation into the advanced version of the French Army’s FELIN dismounted warrior program. An even smaller system is the CPX4 quadrocopter, displayed by Novadem. This vehicle is being evaluated by the DGA as a mini-UAV concept for further FELIN enhancement. Other miniature quadrocopter designs were displayed by Rheinmetall Defense and EADS.