Elbit Systems unveiled today a new version of its Skylark 3 Small Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (STUAS) equipped with a hybrid propulsion system. As the classic Skylark 3, the drone is a covert operation UAS.

The hybrid propulsion system is designed to enable fast arrival to the Area Of Interest (AOI) using the combustion engine. When operating in the area of interest, the silent mode (electrical engine) can be activated. Therefore, it enables the combination of long-endurance operations while providing real-time, day, and night intelligence.

According to the company, the use of a battery-powered electric engine with an internal combustion engine using heavy-fuel triples the endurance and offers up to 18 hours of operations. The propulsion system is fully integrated into the airframe, retaining the size or weight, significantly increasing mission effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

The classic Skylark 3 uses a battery-powered electrical motor coupled to a pusher propeller. The new hybrid model adds a fuel-efficient internal combustion engine in the front. The use of a battery-powered electrical engine minimizes the acoustic and thermal signature. In addition to the gains in endurance and silent operation, the twin-engine architecture also improves flight safety by redundancy, as the two motors are independent of each other, thus enabling one engine to back up the other.

This side view of the Skylark 3 Hybrid on a launch rail shows the two motors in idle. Photo: Elbit Systems

The higher endurance of the Skylark 3 Hybrid increases the drone’s loitering time above AOI thus requiring fewer platforms per mission. Two Skylark 3 Hybrid STUAS can be assigned to the same mission simultaneously managed by a shared ground control station. The drone is operated by a crew of two, it is launched via a pneumatic launcher that can be mounted on a vehicle or vessel. The Skylark 3 is retrieved by parachute at a pre-designated landing area.

Skylark 3 small tactical UAS is designed for operation as an organic ISR asset by the tactical land forces (brigades and above). launched from a catapult and retrieved by parachute. Photo: Elbit Systems

Skylark 3 Hybrid has a 4.7m wingspan, a maximum takeoff weight of 50kg, a service ceiling of 12,000ft, and a range of 120km. It features dual payload capacity with a “plug&play” interface for a quick replacement of sensors in the field. The Skylark 3 Hybrid is capable of integrating a range of payloads including high-resolution Electro-Optical gimbaled payload, ELINT, COMINT, and laser designators, among others.

Elbit System is displaying the Skylark 3 Hybrid for the first time at the Singapore Airshow 2022.

Skylark 3 is being launched from a launch rail. Utilizing the IC engine for the initial phase of the flight, launch, acceleration, and ascend to cruising altitude and transit to AOI saves all of the batteries’ electrical power for the reconnaissance phase of the mission, which can be done in a silent mode. Photo: Elbit Systems.

[wlm_nonmember]The Skylark 3 can also be configured with the new, wide-area persistent intelligence (WAMI) gathering system, the MiniSkEye payload, designed for light platforms. Subscribe to read the full review[/wlm_nonmember][wlm_ismember]

Another innovation related to the Skylark 3 platform is the introduction of MiniSkEye, a wide-area persistent surveillance (WAPS) system that provides enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. Until now, this capability was enabled with larger platforms, such as the Hermes 900 and 450. Designed for small platforms, MiniSkEye can fit inside a drone such as the Skylark 3, or be carried by light aircraft packed as a pod. The MiniSkEye produces wide-area coverage, much larger than the “Soda Straw” views of conventional EO/IR payloads. It provides automatic detection, tracking, and alerts on suspicious movements and activities in designated areas. This capability enhances a wide range of tasks including military fire support, maneuvering force operations, border protection, and disaster relief.

The Compact and lightweight MiniSkEye can be easily integrated on a variety of platforms, from small unmanned airborne systems to light aircraft. Data and video are stored and disseminated, to designated mission consoles or through C4I networks, using industry-standard interfaces at minimal bandwidth. Aerial Surveying of large area swaths enables the discovery of activity and changes in large areas, providing real-time intelligence for a variety of military applications. The system integrates a Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI) reconnaissance for persistent surveillance of a wide area enabling the users to tightly monitor movements as they occur, in the day and at night, and gather intelligence to recognize and monitor patterns of life analysis over a long term.