Farnborough Air Show

BAE’s Herti UAV will spy in uniform or in civvies

 - November 16, 2006, 6:03 AM

BAE Systems is showing its recently-revealed Herti UAV system here for the first time, but the company’s unmanned, low-observable Raven and Corax vehicles are not on display. They have unambiguous defense applications, whereas the Herti is also aimed at the civilian market for a long-duration, low-cost observation platform.

The Herti is a fully autonomous all-composite UAV which BAE adapted from a Polish motor-glider airframe. The 1A version shown here is to a production standard, powered by a Rotax-914 engine and equipped with a new sensor turret containing two fixed, wide-angle cameras and one steerable camera with a narrow field-of-view. BAE earlier flew a smaller 1-demonstrator version powered by a microjet.

The Herti can fly for more than 24 hours, at up to 20,000 feet, downlinking imagery to a ground station housed in a Land Rover vehicle. This is also on display at the BAE Pavilion, where the company’s Imagery Collection and Exploitation (ICE) system may be inspected. The ground station does mission planning and management, as well as imagery exploitation. The system’s transport container is also on show.

BAE claims that ICE is a fundamentally different collection concept, that saves bandwidth by storing high-definition imagery frames onboard the UAV until requested from the ground. Like the vehicle itself, ICE is highly automated, including change-detection software. Only electro-optical imagery has been flown to date, but a small synthetic aperture radar could be added.

At a potential cost of only $15 million for the air vehicle, the ICE system and three ground stations, BAE hopes that the Herti will have wide appeal. That could depend on further progress in regulatory approvals for UAVs to fly in unsegregated airspace. However, Herti has gained a Civil Aviation Authority clearance under B conditions for fully autonomous missions in UK airspace.