While the long-term goal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is for 80 percent of their uses to be in the civilian sector, their main uses currently remain in the military sphere–although their role in border surveillance and disaster situations is increasing. This is according to Ali Al Dhaheri, the Emirati founder and CEO of Adcom Group, an Abu Dhabi-based manufacturer that aims to make the United Arab Emirates (UAE) the number-three UAV producing nation behind the U.S. and Israel.
Adcom Systems is a diversified group of companies that manufactures UAVs, aerial targets, air traffic control radar systems and advanced communication systems. The group was founded 23 years ago, and now comprises 20 companies. Its headquareters is in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD) at Mussafah, Abu Dhabi.
“We are specialized in unmanned aircraft, drones and targets. We’d like to expand our business in the international market. [Among other regions] we are looking at North and South America,” said Al Dhaheri. “We are very clear. I am the general designer. We do everything ourselves. We don’t depend on any foreign technology. We use our own technology. Most of our profits go directly to research and development in the UAE.”
The UAE military has been a client for 20 years, he said, and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are also on the company’s order books. “We are trying to [obtain] licenses in other countries. We are rushing to be number-three in the world. The U.S., Israel and us–we three are the biggest players [in UAVs].
“Civilian use is just becoming popular. Applications in advanced countries like the U.S. may be limited, but now they want to use [UAVs] and find them cost-effective. If there is a forest fire, it’s nice to keep human beings away. Our objective is that if we can save one life from natural disaster, we are a winner. This is our aim, especially in advanced countries like the U.S., Russia or South America. Our aircraft are capable of carrying a lot of sensors and communications networks.”
Al Dhaheri singles out one of the group’s newest products, the United 40. With a length of 11m and a wingspan of 20 meters, this medium-altitude long-endurance UAV is designed for missions as diverse as near real-time combat assessment, battle-damage assessment, battlefield intelligence preparation, reconnaissance and humanitarian aid, as well as border surveillance and communications relay.
“The United 40 has been seen at the Dubai Airshow. It is a very popular aircraft, a new design, new concept and new aerodynamics,” he said. “It has the capability to carry one [metric] ton maximum take-off total, and carries all types of cameras. It has generated a good deal of interest in America, Russia and other countries. I designed the Yabhon United 40 myself.”
Al Dhaheri called opportunities at the Paris Air Show “lucrative,” and said his company had already attended the event a number of times. Africa is a major target for company sales in coming years, although the U.S. and Europe are also sources of good business, he said. A typical UAV will sell for $6 to $10 million, he added. “The Paris Air Show is one of the biggest in the world. We have participated a few times and found it very lucrative to introduce our products on the international market.”