Thales has adapted a Spanish-designed UAV named Fulmar for maritime border surveillance. The French company revealed that the UAV is already operational in an unspecified South Asian country.
The Fulmar is a catapult, rail-launched system with a wingspan of 3.1 meters (10.2 feet). The fully autonomous Aerovision-designed UAV first flew in 2004. It is usually recovered into a net, and therefore is similar in concept to the Boeing/Insitu Scan Eagle. However, the Fulmar can also land on water, using a pneumatic skid. Aerovision claims that the design is waterproof. It also claims that the high lift-drag ratio wing affords an endurance of eight hours. Cruise speed is 60 mph.
Thales said that it worked in partnership with Aerovision, and had done a comprehensive integration of sensors, a command and control (C2) system and a secure communications network. Aerovision previously offered the Fulmar with a video camera, and a TCP/IP control network extendable to rugged laptops from a small ground station. Thales suggests that the Fulmar system UAV could identify suspect maritime vessels and vessels in distress at a lower cost than helicopters, aircraft and ships. The C2 system would cue the UAV to such targets by existing sensors along the coast, including radar and sonar.
Thales notes that the Fulmar system is “100-percent European.” Late last year, it was demonstrated on the Greek Adriatic coastline alongside U.S. and Israeli systems to the European Union agency charged with border protection.