Until recently it seemed that Israel Aerospace Industries had almost abandoned the development of miniature unmanned air systems. The big money is in the larger versions such as the Heron and Heron TP, but the indications from the market are that there is demand for the mini UAS and the Israeli company has responded.
It has so far not unveiled any new mini UAS, but has been working on upgrades to two existing systems.
The endurance of the Bird-Eye 400 mini UAS has been increased to more than 2h.
Produced by IAI’s MALAT division, the Bird-Eye 400 has been exported to a number of counties, including Russia.
Russian defence firm Oboronprom signed a $400 million deal with IAI in 2011 for Bird-Eye systems, as well as other types of UAS. According to the Russian press, at least 12 Bird-Eye systems were included in the initial contract.
The Bird-Eye 400 is designed to take off and land automatically, even under adverse weather conditions, using an automatic flight control system.
The automated functions of the UAS enable the ground system operators to focus more on the overall rather than vehicle control and the aircraft can be assembled in few minutes.
Each Bird-Eye 400 system comprises three UAS, a ground control unit and a satellite data link.
The automatic launch and recovery system lands the aircraft independently when communication between the UAS and the ground control unit fails.
The Bird-Eye 400 is equipped with the IAI lightweight MicroPop electro-optical payload, with day and night modes. The UAS is powered by an electric propulsion system to reduce its noise signature, has a maximum speed of 45kt (83km/h. The operational range is 5.4nm (10km).
It has a wingspan of 2.2m (7ft 2in) and a maximum take-off weight is 5.6kg (12.3lb). The increased endurance was achieved using an improved power source.
IAIs Bird-Eye 650 is also being upgraded with an extended the flight duration. The new Bird Eye 650D has an endurance of 20h.
So there is no question that the market for advanced mini UAS is still very active and that manufacturers are responding.