A Heron 1 medium-altitude long-endurance UAV from IAI has recently participated in a demonstration of unmanned operations in civilian airspace, undertaken at Murcia-San Javier in Spain. The airfield is a military training base but is also used by commercial aircraft, and the operations of the UAV were timed to coincide with those by other airport users.
While the long-term goal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is for 80 percent of their uses to be in the civilian sector, their main uses currently remain in the military sphere–although their role in border surveillance and disaster situations is increasing.
Since the first quarter of 2012 two Aermacchi M346s have been flying under Italian air force colors, carrying out the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) campaign. From March 5 to Sept. 5, 2012 the two Masters logged some 130 flight hours in the hands of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (test flight wing) of Pratica di Mare.
Beechcraft has a long history of providing special-mission platforms for military intelligence and security programs, reaching back to the late 1950s. Today this business remains highly important to the company, based largely on the King Air family that has become a popular choice of platforms for special-mission duties. Now the company is broadening its portfolio by offering the smaller and cheaper Baron G58 as an ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platform, and has already delivered the first example to a customer.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI, Chalet A206) is in the final stages of delivering a persistent surveillance radar system that is mounted on a tethered aerostat platform. The customer has not been revealed by IAI. The radar is based on IAI ELTA’s ELM-2022A multimode radar and provides a range of surveillance capabilities. It can automatically detect and track maritime targets down to periscope size in high-density environments and high sea states.
Italy’s Aerea is debuting its new weapons storage and release carriage for UAVs at the Paris Air Show (Hall 1 Stand F293). The new Ultralight Release Unit (URU) is a smaller version of similar equipment that the Milan-based company has previously developed for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Aermacchi M346 trainer/light attack jet and the NH-90 helicopter.
In the wake of the Euro Hawk cancellation in Germany, the future of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system based on the similar Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV is in doubt. Germany intends to offer for AGS whatever alternative platform it decides to employ for the Cassidian integrated signals intelligence system (ISIS) that was the payload on the Euro Hawk. The Royal Air Force Raytheon Sentinel R.1 ground surveillance aircraft is also on offer.
The U.S. Navy is upgrading the communications network on its E-6B Mercury airborne command post to provide the battle staff on board with faster, more reliable access to both classified and unclassified information. The service recently received the third fleet E-6B outfitted with the Internet protocol bandwidth expansion (IPBE) upgrade.
At an unmanned vehicles forum in Bonn this week, EADS Cassidian was again promoting what it now calls a Future European Male (Female) system. But the prospects of a pan-European program to match or improve on Male (medium-altitude long-endurance) UAV offerings from Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere have receded. France has decided to buy two GA-ASI Reaper systems, and there are indications that the UK will retain its Reapers beyond 2015, rather than retire them upon leaving Afghanistan.
Integration of remotely piloted air systems (RPAS, or unmanned air systems) into non-segregated airspace in Europe has moved a step closer with the latest test flight in the Desire project (Demonstration of Satellites enabling the Insertion of RPAS in Europe). The project is funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) and led by Indra of Spain.