BirdEye 650D showing the flying wing design. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update
BirdEye 650D showing the flying wing design. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update

Israel Aerospace Industries has unveiled its BirdEye 650D mini unmanned air vehicle (UAV) at the recent IDAS-BMD symposium in Tel Aviv. The new version is a third variant of the BirdEye 650 mini-UAV. The 650D is extending the platform’s mission endurance from two and three hours to 24. Previous versions required committing two or three UAVs to achieve a 24 hour cycle.

The BirdEye 650D is powered by a front-mounted piston engine. The model on display does not show the planned position for the payload, which should be located between the engine cowling and parachute bay at the rear. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update
The BirdEye platform was launched with the BirdEye 400 electrically powered variant, carrying 1.2 kg (2.6lb) typically carrying the 1 kg (2.2lb) MicroPOP stabilized EO payload. This variant was later enhanced into the BirdEye 650, a 11 kg (24lb) drone doubling endurance to two hours with the same MicroPOP payload. A longer endurance version was later introduced, stretching the mission to 3.5 hours, taking advantage of lighter payloads and larger power pack. The BirdEye 650 have also been tested carrying fuel cells, on missions of up to six hours. Regardless of power source, electrical propulsion is not powerful enough to sustain long missions with the payload class required by tactical users, IAI sources indicated.

These specifications typically require endurance of 20-24 hours and payload weight class of 5-6 kg. While IAI’s MiniPOP is slightly heavier for this application, lighter payloads conforming with this class are the multi-sensor TASE 350, comprising an IR and HD camera weighing 3.5 kg (7.25lb) from UTC or the Israeli T-Stamp, a 2.8 kg stabilized payload carrying a cooled IR and TV camera from Controp.

Electrical propulsion is far from meeting such goals. To meet this goal with a compact platform, IAI engineers scaled up the BirdEye 650 platform, adding a small combustion engine, and fuel tank sustaining 20-24 hours (depending on the payload used). The BirdEye supports such mission endurance with a starter-alternator sustaining the charged battery supporting the avionics, datalink and payload on the extended mission. In this configuration the BirdEye 650D has a longer fuselage and larger wing span, enabling maximum take-off weight of 30kg (66lb). The new model has an operational radius of over 50km (27nm).

The new version is launched from a catapult and retrieved by parachute and airbag. As performed by other BirdEye models, the 650D also uses a belly placed parachute that, when retrieved, flips the drone on its back, protecting the payload from ground impact. This flipped landing method eliminates the need for retractable turret. This mini-UAV will also be configured to operate from naval vessels, using a catapult launch systems and several, optional at-sea retrieval systems.

The Birdeye family of mini-UAVs showing (from top to bottom) the BirdEye 650D, BirdEye 650 and BirdEye 400. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update
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