With its unmanned air vehicles having achieved more than 1.2 million operational flight hours and serving with more than 50 operators, IAI is one of the leading companies involved in this sector. Here at Farnborough International 2014 it is promoting a wide range of its UAVs, from the 10,230-pound Heron TP to the nine-pound vertical takeoff Ghost, along with related technologies such as advanced electro-optical, sigint (signals intelligence) and maritime patrol payloads.
Much of the operational flight hours have been amassed by the Searcher and Heron vehicles. Earlier this year IAI (Chalet A29) unveiled the Super Heron as a major upgrade of the original design. Super Heron was “developed to provide an answer to the growing need in the market for a heavy fuel MALE UAV,” said Shaul Shahar, vice-president and general manager of IAI’s military aircraft group. “It presents some unique capabilities: high speed [maximum of 150 knots], a high rate of climb and flexibility in carrying a variety of payloads. The test phase has been completed successfully, its performance was validated and we are very pleased with the results.”
Meanwhile, the Heron’s “big brother,” the Heron TP, is fully operational with the Israeli air force as the Eitan and is the subject of export interest. “We have received a very positive feedback from the user regarding the Heron TP’s operational capabilities and performance,” Shahar told AIN, adding that, “There are serious talks with several customers.” The Heron TP is NATO-interoperable and fully compliant with STANAG 4671.
Traditionally associated with larger unmanned platforms, IAI is significantly expanding its offer in the smaller UAV marketplace. “We see more demand for tactical and mini-tactical UASs in the market,” Shahar reported, “and we are prepared to answer these needs with state-of-the-art technologies. IAI is interested in this market and continues to invest resources in the development of innovative mini UASs.”
Examples of this direction being promoted at Farnborough include the man-portable Bird Eye ramp-launched flying-wing vehicle and the twin-rotor Ghost that has been developed specifically for special forces use, mainly in the urban environment. Also being showcased are the Panther and Mini Panther tilt-rotor vehicles that offer fixed-wing endurance performance but with the ability to take off and land vertically.
In May, IAI North America unveiled the ArrowLite hand-held UAV, which has been designed by the company’s subsidiary Stark Aerospace. ArrowLite was designed with support from the U.S. Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office to provide an ISR capability to small special operations and counter-terrorism teams. Operated by one person and weighing just over six pounds, ArrowLite can be erected and launched in 60 to 90 seconds and fly for up to 150 minutes. The stabilized payload comprises a two-axis-gimbaled thermal imager and laser illuminator, with an encrypted datalink. IAI had delivered 13 systems by May this year, each system comprising three vehicles in waterproof carriers plus a ruggedized ground control system. o
IAI Flies Flagship Payload
IAI’s Tamam division has begun flight trials of its M-19HD ISR payload, the company’s latest advanced electro-optical multi-sensor turret. The M-19HD took to the skies for the first time fitted to a Piper Aztec light twin for trials, but is primarily intended for application to large UAVs such as the IAI Heron and Heron TP for strategic surveillance missions, as well as on other platforms such as aerostats, vessels and manned aircraft.
Weighing from 165 and 187 pounds, depending on configuration, the M-19HD measures 22.6 inches wide and 27.3 inches deep. It can accommodate up to seven sensors to provide a multi-spectral high-definition capability by day and night.
Sensor options include two high-definition day cameras (zoom and spotter), two HD infrared sensors (zoom and spotter), short-wave infrared camera, laser designator with inflight boresight, laser rangefinder, laser pointer, near infrared laser illuminator, and EMCCD (electron magnified charged coupled device) camera.