LAAD11: Brazil’s UAV interest sparks new designs, corporate moves

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Brazilian interest in unmanned air systems has elevated suddenly from after-thought for most of the past decade to must-have, with a flock of new options from local companies.

The abrupt shift has forced native and international industry to scramble to claim pole position ahead of an expected surge in orders.

Brazil’s largest aerospace manufacturer, Embraer, has made perhaps the boldest move, forming a joint venture with Elbit Systems-owned Aeroelectronica (AEL) to propose a modified Elbit Hermes 450 for the Brazilian air force. The air force has already received Hermes 450s through AEL for a demonstration programme.

 
© Elbit Systems

Embraer also signed a memorandum of understanding with São José dos Campos-based Santos LAB, supporting the start-up as it supplies Caraca 2 mini-UAVs to the Brazilian marines.

Both moves follow Embraer’s acquisition earlier this year of a majority stake in OrbiSat, which has demonstrated a mid-endurance UAV called the Sarvant.

Santos Lab, meanwhile, has teamed with Boeing as an offset partner, assuming the Brazilian air force buys the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for the FX-2 contract. Santos would partner Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, to market the Scan Eagle in Brazil.

Embraer’s link with the Hermes 450 comes as Avibras revealed a mock-up of a new UAS called the Falcao. The aircraft is advertised as able to lift 150kg (330lb) on 15h missions, but its current development status was not disclosed by company officials.

Taking a similar approach to Embraer, Avibras has also formed links with small start-ups in Brazil. Flight Technology, for example supplies the flight controls for the Falcao.

Flight Technology also unveiled a new family of Horas 100 mini-UAVs. Last July the company supplied three prototypes of the 100kg-class Watchdog UAS, which is renamed the Horas 200, and two prototypes of the smaller Horas 100 to the Brazilian army.

Production go-ahead has been stalled by Brazil’s decision to slash military spending by 26.5% this year.

The Brazilian military has still more options available in Brazil. The federal police last year received a Heron 1 UAV from Israel Aerospace Industries, but it has not yet flown due to budget constraints.

At the smallest level, Brazilian start-up Gyrofly Innovations unveiled two new quadrotor helicopters in the micro-UAV class.

China’s Poly Technologies displayed a model of the PW-3 weaponised UAS in the exhibit hall at Latin America Aerospace and Defence 2011 convention.

To see images of the Avibras Falcao and OrbiSat Sarvant designs, visit Stephen Trimble's The DEW Line blog