Rafael Moves into the UAV World

 - September 3, 2019, 4:56 AM
The Orbiter 3 STUAS can be used from land or at sea, being capable of net recovery following a ramp launch. (photo: Aeronautics)

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd of Israel will soon complete the acquisition of unmanned aerial system (UAS) specialist Aeronautics Ltd, Rafael announced. When the deal is consummated, Rafael will hold 50 percent of the company, with the other half being owned by businessman Avichai Stolero.

The Rafael partnership had bid for Aeronautics last year, but its offer was considered too low and was turned down by the Aeronautics board. A larger amount from government-owned Rafael has now been accepted in the face of a competing bid from IAI.

For Rafael, the purchase represents part of a mergers and acquisition strategy to expand into new business areas, with the unmanned sector considered a priority. Aeronautics will be involved in various Rafael innovation efforts with what the company describes as a vision to "increase mutual growth, explore new markets, and provide end-to-end solutions in the low-tier aerial domain.” Rafael and Aeronautics already co-own sensor manufacturer Controp Precision Technologies.

Founded in 1997, Aeronautics brings with it a wealth of expertise in the UAS sector, including a range of services such as training, consulting, outsourced operations, and flight demonstrations. Its solutions have applications in defense, homeland security, and commercial sectors.

In terms of platforms, Aeronautics has developed a range of UASs that covers a wide portion of the size/performance spectrum. At the light end is the man-portable 3-meter (9.8-foot)-span, 10.3-kg (22.7-pound)-mtow Orbiter 2 small UAS, above which sits the 4.4-meter (14.4-foot)-span, 30-kg (66-lb)-mtow Orbiter 3 small tactical UAS that offers a maximum endurance of seven hours. Larger still is the Orbiter 4, with a 50-kg (110-pound)-mtow and wingspan of 5.4 meters (17.7 feet). These all share a common swept-wing configuration. The Orbiter 1K is a loitering munition development of the Orbiter 2 with a warhead.

The Aerostar is a tactical UAS with a twin-boom layout, and has amassed more than 250,000 operational flying hours. With an mtow of 230 kg (507 pounds), it can fly for 12 hours with a 50-kg (110-pound) payload. The largest platform in Aeronautics’ current product lineup is the Dominator XP MALE UAS, an unmanned version of the Diamond DA-42 Twin Star. Finally, Aeronautics offers two aerostats: the five-kg (11-pound) payload Skystar 180 and the 50-kg (110-pound) Skystar 300.