Diamond Aircraft has revealed a surge of orders for the DA42 Multi-Purpose Platform (MPP), also known as the Guardian. It is the surveillance version of the Austrian company’s DA42 twin-engine training and touring aircraft. A total of 91 are now in service, in places such as Europe (18), Africa (14), the Middle East (11), the CIS (9), Australasia (20) and the Americas (14).
Christian Dries, chairman of Diamond, told AIN, “The MPPs are now 40 percent of our production and 70 percent of our turnover.” He said that flexibility and low cost of operation are major factors in the aircraft’s success. Roles include environmental monitoring, law enforcement, border and maritime patrol, and HDTV broadcasting.
Most of the customers for the airplane have been government agencies, including air forces such as Thailand’s, which has taken delivery of six out of eight units ordered. The two- to four-seat DA42 MPP is now powered by Diamond’s own AE300 turbocharged engines, which run on jet-A1 fuel, and burn less than 20 liters each per hour. They cannot be heard when the aircraft is flying above 1,000 feet in ambient noise conditions, or 8,000 feet over a desert at night, according to Dries. The airplane's maximum altitude is 18,000 feet. Typical missions last six to eight hours, although 12 hours is possible.
Customers specify the sensors they require, which are installed and certified at the factory. Payloads can include electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turrets, laser scanners and small radars. They are added to the nose or a large belly pod. The line-of-sight datalink can be supplemented by a Scotty Satcom.
Israeli company Aeronautics has developed an unmanned version of the DA42 MPP.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Aurora Flight Sciences has developed an optionally piloted version named Centaur, which can fly for up to 24 hours when unmanned.
“It’s ten times cheaper to operate than a King Air,” an Aurora official told AIN.