Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has launched a small, armed, unmanned helicopter to expand a widening portfolio in the unmanned airborne systems market.
Dubbed the R-IHA - the Turkish acronym for rotary-wing UAS - the prototype is expected to achieve first flight in mid-2012, said Gorkem Bilgi, business development leader at TAI's integrated helicopter department.
Negotiations are ongoing with several potential customers within Turkey, including the navy, gendarmerie and national police, he said.
TAI launched the R-IHA programme after detecting a gap in the market for an unmanned helicopter between 300kg (660lb) and 500kg, Bilgi said.
The prototype design is listed with an endurance of 4h, a maximum take-off weight of 340kg with a 100kg payload, 10,000ft (3,050m) service ceiling and a top cruise speed of 100kt (185km/h).
The R-IHA joins a UAS portfolio within TAI that includes a medium-altitude long-endurance UAS called the AMKA. The first vehicle achieved first flight in December. Two more vehicles are scheduled for delivery in 2012 to complete an initial order by the Turkish military.
TAI believes in Arab countries the AMKA could become an attractive alternative to Israeli competitors, Bilgi said. The AMKA also will likely be offered to potential customers in southeastern Europe.