Dubai Air Show

UAVs drive growth of Mideast aerospace biz

 - December 6, 2006, 12:19 PM

The defense and aerospace industries in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and some neighboring countries are growing, as seems evident from the number of exhibitors from the region here at this week’s Dubai airshow. While some, such as Jordan Aerospace Industries (Stand No. E504a) and Seabird Aviation Jordan have taken cautious steps by undertaking license production of light aircraft, others have decided to explore original design concepts in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Indeed, JAI itself has also teamed with Jordan’s King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) to develop a family of UAVs notable for its innovative designs and variety of applications. For example, the Jordan Arrow is an aerial target system capable of completely or partially simulating a variety of air defense threats.

Designed for operation by a ground crew of five, the UAV can carry mission equipment internally or on underwing hard-points, which can be supplemented by towed sub-targets. But the Jordan Arrow, like others in the UAV family, is a system, not simply an aerial platform to carry flares, smoke generators and other payloads. Consequently, up to eight UAVs can be deployed by the crew using two trucks, one of which carries a ground control station (GCS).

With minimal change to the airframe and powerplant, the Jordan Arrow forms the basis for the Trans Arrow, a UAV carrier system. This carrier system is a unique combination of the target system and a pair of mini-UAVs called I-Wings.

Folding Wings

The I-Wing is unusual in that it has wings and a tail unit that fold in line with the fuselage for storage in a portable tube that doubles as a launch system. The design features a solid propellant that ejects the I-Wing, which immediately unfolds and automatically starts an electric motor.

In the man-portable form, the I-Wing has a six-mile radius of operation, but when carried on one of the hard-points beneath the Jordan Arrow’s wing, it can travel another 30 miles before the mini-UAVs are deployed. The intelligence they gather can be transmitted to the carrier UAV and radio relayed to the GCS.

Other designs in the JAI/ KADDB family include the hand- launched Silent Eye, which can be operated discreetly at a height of 300 feet to acquire images from a range of about six miles. By contrast, the Jordan Falcon UAV can provide real-time day and night reconnaissance, remote sensing and target acquisition up to a range of approximately 30 miles.

Abu Dhabi-based Gamco is known principally as the maintenance arm of Gulf Air but its special projects division has been carrying out UAV research and development for some years. As innovative as the JAI/KADDB team, Gamco has been inhibited only by a lack of funds. For example, its GRS 200 surveillance aircraft has been designed as a manned or unmanned aircraft with a high-aspect-ratio wingspan of 49 feet and a range of some 500 miles. Carrying a 490-pound payload, the GRS 200 would cruise at 70 knots and have an endurance of up to 20 hours.

However, Gamco is seeking a partner willing to provide development funding to enable this project to continue. The smaller GRS 100 Falcon 1 surveillance system is more conventional with the classic twin-boom, high-wing configuration that has proved so successful in many countries. But the Falcon 1 is unusual in that it offers antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capability through a miniature magnetic anomaly detection system developed by CAE. The Falcon 1 is the first UAV to be given an ASW role, but in addition to detecting submersed submarines, it can also find wooden smugglers’ boats by detecting their metal engines.

In the UAE, a military UAV research facility has teamed with Abu Dhabi-based Advanced Electronic Systems on a range of target and surveillance vehicles, as well as with Austria’s Schiebel and CybAero of Sweden on rotary-wing UAVs.