Manned to unmanned conversion – just a gap filler?

Israeli unmanned air systems (UAS) manufacturers are evaluating the use of manned aircraft for UAS missions following the success of Aeronautics’ unmanned air vehicle Dominator 2.

However, is this a new trend in the market or merely a provisional gap filler?

Major Israeli UAS manufacturers have said the reason they have not followed Aeronautics’ path is because “a UAS has to be designed, as such, from scratch”.

However, some UAS manufacturers have been evaluating whether it is right to invest in optionally piloted vehicles (OPVs) as an interim solution for the market.

OPVs may bridge the gap until large UAS models are allowed to fly in air traffic control areas.

“The conversion of existing manned platforms seems the easiest gap-filler,” an industry source said on 29 June.

Israeli UAS makers refused to comment on future development plans. In the past, the two leading manufacturers – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems – said a converted manned air platform would be of “limited capability because of its basic design features”.

In spite of that the evaluation continues, probably to answer the requirements of limited budget customers and to overcome ATC limitations.

The production rate of Dominator 2 will soon increase as Aeronautics expects to sign new contracts after the XP version of Dominator 2 was cleared for export.

The Dominator XP was adapted to comply with Missile Technology Control Regime limitations.

The Dominator series is based on the Diamond DA42 twin-engine aircraft.

Dominator 2 has an endurance of 28h and is capable of carrying a 300kg (660lb) payload. Its maximum take-off weight is 2,000kg, maximum altitude is 30,000ft (9,150m) and maximum speed 190kts (350km/h).

The Dominator series is aimed at the high end of the UAS market and Aeronautics claims Dominator 2 is competing directly with UAS systems such as General Atomics’ Predator and the IAI’s Heron.

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