Israeli-developed unmanned air systems (UAS) have been upgraded to perform to the maximum of their design capabilities.
Development of these systems is driven by the payloads they will carry - and here the work has only just begun.
I use the word "payload" as a very general term for what these unmanned aircraft can be equipped for. The list of specific UAS applications is long and diverse, and requirements are growing as UAS are increasingly being used for missions that were previously carried out by manned flights.
And yes, the list of UAS applications is highly classified.
The increasing use of UAS, of course, generates business for Israeli manufacturers.
Elbit Systems was recently awarded a contract worth approximately $35m by the Israel Ministry of Defence (MOD) to develop advanced features for its UAS, to be supplied within three years. One of the MOD's requirements is that UAS payloads should be quickly reconfigurable.
This contract is in addition to MOD contracts awarded to Elbit Systems for the supply of Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and maintenance services.
As reported by Flightglobal, Elbit Systems has upgraded the electronics of Hermes 900 UAVs to allow the installation of some very advanced payloads, required by current and potential customers.
Released photographs show the UAVs with two payloads and electronic intelligence (Elint) and communication intelligence (Comint) antennas. Operational configuration will not necessarily include all the sensors carried on the platform during the tests.
The Hermes 900 was tested carrying the Elbit/Elop DCoMPASS day/night payload and, under its mid section, the AMPS multi-sensor payload. Elint and Comint antennas were showed on the fuselage and wings.
The Hermes 900 is operated by the Israeli air force (IAF) and has been purchased by the Chilean and Colombian defence forces. It can operate at flight altitudes of more than 30,000ft, and in adverse weather conditions.
It has a large payload capacity - to a maximum weight of 300kg - and is based on the combat-proven Hermes 450 UAV, which has accumulated more than 250,000 flight hours.
The Hermes 900 is 8.3m long, has as a wingspan of 15m, and a max takeoff weight of 1,100kg.
In recent months Elbit Systems has completed a series of flight tests with new "very advanced" payloads, which were carried by its Hermes 450 UAV.
The fast change of these UAV's payloads is intended to increase the operational capabilities of the two types, but details are classified.