In accordance with heightened security risks and the United Arab Emirates’ aggressive pursuit of high-tech solutions, the country’s UAV Research and Technology Center is collaborating with two European UAV manufacturers to push ahead with plans for fielding new vehicles for border surveillance and other homeland security and military tasks. In October the first Camcopter S-100 was delivered to the UAE as a result of this work.
The UAE already has considerable experience with UAVs, having operated the fixed-wing Denel Seeker since the early 1990s. As UAVs have become an essential area of military operations, the UAE decided to open the research and technology center at Abu Dhabi in 2004.
A deal was signed with the Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Co. (Gamco) that provides facilities and experience. The facility’s task is to cooperate with international companies and agencies to develop UAV systems and foster interoperability with allied nations. It takes requirements generated by the military, and then seeks possible solutions. Through technology transfers associated with this work, the center also aims to produce core competencies in UAV technology to allow local systems development.
Currently the center has two rotary-wing UAV programs, the Al Sber (Camcopter S-100) developed in cooperation with Austrian company Schiebel, and the Apid 55 designed by CybAero of Sweden. The center is working with South Korean firm Uconsystem on a common ground station that can control both UAV types, plus others under development.
CybAero’s Apid 55 grew out of an early 1990s research project run by the University of Linkoping in Sweden. It is a fully autonomous rotary-wing UAV that is applicable to a wide range of civil and military roles. Power comes from a 55-hp two-stroke engine and it has a maximum takeoff weight of 330 pounds. A fuel capacity of 15.8 U.S. gallons provides for an endurance of up to six hours, at a radius of up to 30 miles.
The power system can provide 700 watts for the FLIR systems payload, which is ball-mounted under the fuselage. The system for the UAE comprises two Humvee-based vehicles, one of which houses the ground control station with two operator stations. One console is used for vehicle control and monitoring, and the other is for sensor payload control. The second vehicle carries two UAVs and transports them into the field.
For standard operations one helicopter would be in the air and the other being prepared so that it can take over the tasking when the first reaches its endurance. Flight testing is currently under way in the UAE, to lead to production deliveries soon. Apid 55s will be assembled in the UAE from kits supplied from Sweden.
At 440 pounds mtow, the Camcopter S-100 is slightly larger than the Apid 55 and it is also faster. It can carry a maximum payload of 110 pounds, and has an endurance of up to six hours out to a maximum radius of 80 miles. A payload bay is located in the fuselage below the main rotor, and there are additional daylight/IR cameras to provide the operator with situational awareness. Forty Al Sber systems are on order by the UAE airforce, each including two S-100 vehicles.