Saab test flies its redesigned Skeldar vertical take-off and landing unmanned air vehicle

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Saab conducted the first test flight of its redesigned Skeldar vertical take-off and landing unmanned air vehicle during February, with deck landing trials to support the development of a shipborne variant also on track to commence later this year.

An extensive series of enhancements was launched after disappointing trials involving an original V-150-model UAV last year, with these intended to improve the system's "robustness and reliability". More flights involving the new configuration are expected to take place during the second quarter of this year.

The internally funded Skeldar project will deliver land and maritime airframe variants, with the former design having been involved in the recent trials, conducted at a test range 150km (81nm) north of Saab's Linköping facility. Design acitivities on the maritime Skeldar M have yet to conclude.

"[Despite the changes] we are still within budget [for its development]," says Saab Aerosystems UAV systems business director Anders Carp, who detailed the project's progress at the DIMDEX maritime defence conference in Doha, Qatar on 18 March.

The land-operated version will have a maximum take-off weight of 200kg (440lb), with a payload of 25kg, an endurance of 5h and a range of 100km. The Skeldar M's heavier 225kg maximum will enable it to carry a maritime radar weighing up to 50kg, although Saab expects such payloads to reduce to 30kg within the next couple of years.

Today's Skeldar uses a gasoline engine, but the company is waiting for suppliers to present a heavy fuel engine, which is deemed necessary for naval sales. Saab is talking to some potential naval partners such as shipbuilders and aims to perform deck landing trials later this year. These are expected to use the baseline vehicle with avionics and deck landing equipment added to facilitate the test, which may or may not use real ship flight decks.