The issue has been creating two separate, opposing groups since it was first mooted. Is it wise to convert a manned aircraft to fly autonomously? Can a manned aircraft become an efficient unmanned air system (UAS)?
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has invested some effort in converting a helicopter to fly without a human in the cockpit. The effort was made with India as a potential customer but the programme was cut short.
Another, more serious effort resulted in the Dominator, a two-engine light aircraft that was turned into a large UAS.
Aeronautics has recently resumed the marketing of its Dominator XP unmanned air system. The Israeli company is now offering the platform with a variety of systems and sensors.
After a financial crisis that has been followed by restructuring, the company has resumed its export efforts and the Dominator is considered a system “with high potential”.
Aeronautics says that this sales forecast is based on the fact that the UAS is a big, double-engined platform. “We are currently resuming the marketing effort and the market looks very promising,” says Dany Eshchar, deputy CEO of Aeronautics.
He added that the Dominator XP is a very capable platform that can be easily adapted to a variety of missions.
The first export contract of the Dominator XP was signed in mid-2011, shortly after the XP was cleared for export by the Israeli ministry of defence.
The Dominator XP was adapted to comply with Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) limitations.
The Dominator is based on the Diamond DA-42 twin-engined aircraft.
The Dominator XP can achieve an endurance of 28h and carry a 300kg (660lb) payload. Its maximum take-off weight is 2,000kg. Maximum altitude is 30,000ft (9,150 metres) and its top speed is 190kt (350km/h).
It is aimed at the high end of the medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS market.
One Dominator XP is operated by CAE in Quebec, Canada. CAE and Aeronautics are demonstrating how unmanned systems can be used for commercial applications, such as remote inspection of pipelines and hydroelectric installations, surveillance of forest fires, observation of critical natural resources and assessing natural disasters.
CAE performs a wide range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services.