The effort continues at a slow pace, but it looks set to pick up as soon as a serious potential customer is ready to invest the money needed to manufacture a “fly-away kit”.
Such a kit will take pilots out of helicopter cockpits and replace them with additional fuel tanks, or payloads, with the possibilities limited only by the imagination.
Israel Aerospace Industries believes in the need to turn manned helicopters into pilotless, autonomous platforms and the engineering effort is ongoing.
Three years after a joint venture between IAI and Hindustan Aeronautics aimed at developing an unmanned version of the Dhruv helicopter was abandoned, the Israeli company is now moving ahead alone, slowly but steadily.
As previously reported on Ariel View, this time, the plan is to use a more advanced helicopter of the Airbus Helicopters EC145 class that has a fly-by-wire flight control system, according to an informed source.
The source adds that the unmanned helicopter will be designed to meet the Missile Technology Control Regime Category II regulations that are aimed at limiting the range and carrying capability of unmanned systems. Israel has not signed the MTCR treaty but follows its own limitations.
IAI has identified a need for an unmanned helicopter for military use, especially on navy ships. Other potential customers are emergency services that have to operate in danger zones.
The aim is to develop and manufacture a “fly-away kit” that would make possible the simple transformation of an existing manned helicopter of any size into an autonomous system capable of performing the same missions and more.