Vertical take-off and landing is a brilliant idea but it took long years until the Boeing V-22 Osprey became fully operational. In aviation, there is evolution rather than revolutions.
The same process is now taking place with the introduction of a VTOL unmanned air system into service.
Israel Aerospace Industries has developed the Panther, an advanced VTOL UAS, and is now trying to convince potential customers that it meets many of their operational requirements.
Since it was unveiled four years ago, the Panther has been upgraded and now its manufacturer is offering it to potential customers.
A new power pack comprising two separate lithium-ion batteries will allow the Panther tiltrotor UAS to stay in the air with a payload for over 6h.
A source said that while one battery is used for take-off and landing, the other is used for cruising. The distributed usage allows for optimal power to be derived from the batteries.
The Panther uses an innovative automatic flight control system that manages the transitions between the hovering take-off phase to forward flight and vice versa before landing. The source explained that this system also controls the transition from one battery to the other.
The Panther takes off and lands automatically by a simple click of the operator console, thus eliminating the need for an external pilot. Powered by three ultra-quiet electric motors and with a take-off weight of 65kg (143lb), it can be equipped with various payloads.
According to IAI, the Panther is now mature and ready to compete with the majors. One such competition may start if the French decide to evaluate the Israeli-made UAS as a potential replacement for their Sperwer UAS.
The French first looked at the Watchkeeper UAS selected by the British army, but then decided to open a competition. Now IAI wants to offer the Panther but that will involve a new operational concept. As the carrying capability of the VTOL UAS is lower than fixed-wing competitors, this concept will be based on two or more Panthers flying in formation.
Will evolution lead to a revolution? This depends, of course, on many other factors that have to be considered when such a competition begins.