A United Arab Emirates company making an ultra-long-range unmanned air vehicle plans to achieve first flight in three months.
Ali Al Dhaheri, general designer and chief executive of Abu Dhabi-based Adcom Systems, says the Smart Eye medium-altitude UAV has completed all component level tests on the all-composite structure and engine.
Smart Eye was conceived as a UAE-designed rival to the General Atomics Predator. But the 21m (70ft)-wingspan Smart Eye will feature significantly longer range. Smart Eye is designed to fly missions lasting more than 135h - or more than five days - without refuelling, Dhaheri says.
It gains its ultra-long endurance from its glider-like, high-aspect ratio wings, he says. The 2,100lb-class (955kg) Smart Eye carries about 900 litres (240USgal) of fuel and only needs 20hp (15kW) from its pusher-propeller engine in cruise flight to remain airborne, he says.
Payload for the aircraft varies greatly depending on the customer's need. The Smart Eye is listed as carrying a payload of between 70kg and 550kg. The structure is designed to support two gimballed cameras. There are also provisions for other sensors, such as signals intelligence, Dhaheri says, adding that integrating weapons are an option.
Dhaheri adds that it is "capable" of carrying weapons, "but it's not part of our business right now".
Adcom subsidiary Advanced Target Systems has made one major change to the design since it was revealed. A small gas turbine is being added, which will activate only if the main engine fails, Dhaheri says.
The Smart Eye's first flight event is expected to be followed by a production contract from the UAE military, Dhaheri says. The aircraft is not yet approved for export by the UAE, he says, but that policy could change.
Adcom has no plans to conduct a flight-test programme for the Smart Eye. Dhaheri says previous tests on half-scale models and the company's target drones are sufficient to validate the technologies in the Smart Eye. The UAV will become operational with its first flight, he says.
Smart Eye is the first major UAV project undertaken by the UAE's nascent aerospace design and production industry. The aircraft incorporates advanced composites, including carbonfibre, glassfibre and kevlar, supplied by local UAE companies.
Adcom has also designed and produced hundreds of Yabhon target drones for the UAE military, including several jet-powered types.