PICTURES: Sagem advances Patroller UAV flight tests

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Sagem will move its Patroller unmanned air vehicle to the French air force's Istres flight-test centre this week, having recently completed a third series of trials with the developmental system.

First flown in June 2009 and based on Stemme's S15 special mission aircraft, the Patroller is being offered to operators including the French armed forces for evaluation from the middle of this year. Deliveries could be made "in 12 to 18 months", says Sagem.

Flight tests conducted from Cergy-Pontoise airfield near Paris from 22-30 April validated the design's triple-redundant avionics equipment and showcased the performance of its Sagem Euroflir electro-optical/infrared sensor and Ku-band datalink.

 
© Sagem

They also for the first time included the use of external fuel tanks on the Patroller airframe, which weighs about 1,000kg (2,200lb) .

Sagem says the UAV also performed autonomous taxi trials during the recent test phase, with the work having been "integrated in the management of the civil air traffic" at the host airfield.

The work was conducted with a pilot on board the modified S15, a policy that Sagem says "facilitates demonstration flights by allowing them to be carried out in non-restricted airspace".

 
© Sagem
An operator on the ground controlled the Patroller's Euroflir sensor payload

The use of Istres as a test location will allow Sagem for the first time to operate the Patroller in unmanned mode, using the base's restricted airspace.

An operational version of the medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV would offer operators a mission endurance of 20-30h, with the type to fly at up to 25,000ft (7,620m).

"Patroller meets virtually all French requirements for long-endurance drones, at a reasonable cost," says Sagem. Future system options include the addition of satellite communication equipment, pod-mounted sensors and potentially air-launched weapons, it adds.