Iranian companies have accumulated considerable experience in the development and production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) since the country imported its first one in 1979.
Having since placed an indigenous design into service in 1986 and supplied a number of units to the Iranian military, the country’s industry now looks ready to start exporting them.
Isfahan’s HESA produces several UAV types, among them the Ababil-1 and its scaled-down AM-79 derivative for operator training. The Ababil-1 weighs just under 440 pounds. It can loiter for two hours at speeds up to 160 knots and a can operate at altitudes of up to 16,500 feet. A solid-fuel booster assists takeoff from a rail-type platform. The main wing unfolds, and the vehicles assume a “canarded” aerodynamic configuration. A rear-mounted piston engine driving a pusher propeller powers the vehicle during cruise.
The design features optical sensors in the fuselage nose. The Ababil-1 follows a flight path loaded into its computer before takeoff, but the operator can assume control or reprogram waypoints during flight. The operator uses a Panasonic portable computer and joystick-style device for manual trajectory control–all of which he or she can carry in a normal-sized suitcase.
While HESA’s designs consist largely of aluminum alloys, Tehran-based Qods Aviation Industries prefers composites.
The 118-inch-long Mohajer-2, featuring a 150-inch wingspan, weighs just 187 pounds. Its twin-boom tail and a pusher propeller give it a distinctive look.
The UAV’s 25-hp piston engine provides for 90 minutes of powered flight at a maximum speed of 108 knots and altitudes of up to 9,900 feet. In practice, operational range falls to less than 27 nm (to maintain a radio link with the truck-based control post) if the operator needs real-time video imagery.
Equipped with a flight control system and autopilot, the Mohajer-2 normally follows a preloaded flight path with up to 99 waypoints, using a GPS receiver for navigation. The vehicle lasts for some 20 to 30 flights.
A pneumatic catapult propels the Mohajer-2 for takeoff. It lands either with a parachute or airplane-style, on skids, although it can also land on a wheeled undercarriage if so fitted.
Qods also produces other, simpler, UAV designs. The Talash-1 and -2, weighing less than 27 pounds each, serve as low-cost training tools for UAV operators and anti-aircraft gunners.
The 132-pound Saegheh-2 drone either automatically follows a preprogrammed flight path or receives command inputs from the ground via radio.
The booster-assisted Saegheh-2 incorporates a flying-wing design with a 102-inch wingspan and overall length of 110 inches. A 25-hp, rear-mounted piston engine turns a pusher propeller. It can fly for up to 45 minutes and to a range of 27 nm. The UAV can achieve speeds of 135 knots and a ceiling of 9,900 feet.
Qods has yet to land any officially confirmed export sales, but the Palestinian Authority reportedly has some Iranian UAVs.