Hovering aerial vehicles: the competition is on

Sustained surveillance, continuous observation. The name is irrelevant. The need is great, sometimes crucial. The need for a military force to have eyes on the skies to detect any threats.

The hovering platform market in Israel is beginning to stir as the leading companies are being challenged by small ones with new, advanced technology.

Sky Sapience has revealed initial details about the HoverMast, a tethered hovering platform especially designed for small vehicles. The HoverMast will be displayed at the AUVSI International Conference in Tel Aviv next month.

The HoverMast responds to the need for quick, mobile intelligence-gathering. At the click of a button, the system autonomously deploys, rising to heights of up to 50m (164ft) within 10-15 seconds. Secured by a cable, serving as a power supply and wideband data link, the highly stabilised HoverMast combines advanced flight algorithms and innovative materials to provide the highest payload-to-size ratio available today. Weighing only 10kg (22lb), the platform is capable of hosting 9kg payloads, such as electro-optic sensors, laser designators, radar and sophisticated COMINT and ELINT systems. Its data link enables the transfer of critical information to selected recipients in realtime.

The HoverMast is stored in a compact housing unit that can be mounted on any vehicle, even small ones: cars; pick-up trucks; unmanned ground or surface vehicles; and small naval craft. This makes the system particularly suited for special forces, border and port protection, as well as infantry missions.

Since the HoverMast is tethered, it is not bound by standard air control regulations, which makes it extremely useful for activities such as urban warfare and law enforcement, as well as industrial, civilian and homeland security operations.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was the first to expose the new line of products generally dubbed hovering aerial vehicles (HAVs).The first IAI HAV is the electric tethered observation platform (ETOP), designed for a variety of military, civilian and paramilitary missions. 
According to the Israeli company, the quiet ETOP is best suited to ground and maritime arenas, where quick response and long endurance are required.

The technology can be deployed from a maritime platform, a moving ground vehicle or static station. It is capable of carrying a payload of up to 20kg and operates up to a maximum altitude of 100m. The ETOP combines an electrically powered aerial platform and a ground system that includes the means for automatic deployment, cables and a mission management unit. IAI says that the ETOP is generating much interest in many countries.

The fact that the HoverMast has joined the race for contracts, and that other companies are expected to uncover additional hovering platforms, is proof of the operational need. The competition is on.



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