After about seven years of development, Saab says its Skeldar V-200 unmanned helicopter is ready for the market in both maritime and land-based flavors.
Saab has identified a potential early user: The US Navy is seeking intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services from a variety of sources, including aircraft based on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Saab has bid Skeldar for that work as part of a team with California-based Computer Sciences.
The Swedish company has recently completed ship-based flight trials with the maritime variant of the aircraft, the V-200M. It is continuing to expand Skeldar's flight and performance envelope in land-based testing, but company officials say the product is ready for the market.
"It took some time, but we have a production-ready version of the system now," said Johan Hansson, Saab's director of business development. "It's a very exciting time because we've seen more opportunities than we were hoping for, in many different areas."
Skeldar sports a heavy-fuel engine option and the maritime version can operate on a ship without using a landing harpoon up to sea state 4, Hansson said.
"We see a growing number of opportunities on the naval side," he said. "That seems where it makes very much sense, for obvious reasons, to use a VTOL system."
In addition to bidding for the Navy's ISR contract, Saab plans to ship a Skeldar to North America later this year and to conduct demonstrations for potential customers, in the United States and Canada, including the Department of Homeland Security, the US Coast Guard, Resources Canada and various law-enforcement organizations.