A number of multirole airborne systems for earth remote sensing (ERS) have been developed by Irkut to equip both unmanned and optionally piloted aerial vehicles. The systems are the result of research and development carried out by the company and its partners since 1999 for the systems detection and monitoring of emergencies. Tasks envisioned include the search for survivors and provision of information to rapid response agencies.
Dubbed ERS AS, the systems can also be used to support such commercial activities as timber felling, power supply and transport lines and for monitoring land use. Furthermore, law enforcement and border patrol agencies could benefit from their use.
However, Irkut has not simply developed five types of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms. The system also includes three types of land-based control stations and freestanding terminals to equip specialized devices, as well as software and hardware servicing systems.
Each of the UAVs is powered by a single piston engine that provides cruising speeds of 54 to 80 knots, with operating altitudes of the lightweight vehicles of up to 1,640 feet, while the heavier Irkut-200 can operate up to 11,480 feet.
The range of payloads envisioned for the UAV family is just as varied as the platforms and include a digital camera, various types of TV cameras and other sensors, as well as a light detecting and ranging system. This broad capability will help the Irkut family to meet the requirements of many potential users.
The Russian Ministry of Emergencies has worked with Irkut to develop the concept of using UAVs for search and rescue operations as well as for monitoring disaster areas. Consequently, series production of the systems for Russian customers is to begin in 2006, although Irkut has ambitions to become a major player in the emerging civil UAV markets worldwide.