Tactical UAV project nears conclusion

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The United Arab Emirates air force’s unmanned air vehicle research and technology centre has nearly finished a two-year effort to develop an integrated vertical take-off and landing tactical UAV system. Production approvals are awaited for the Al Sber derivative of the Schiebel S-100 air vehicle.

al sber

The centre has also started assessing the potential for tethered aerostats to form part of the UAE’s future border surveillance system, with a single demonstration system acquired from US-based TCOM.

The aerostat has a 90kg (200lb) payload capacity and will be fitted with electro-optic and radar sensors. In operational use, the air vehicle would be elevated to an altitude of 1000-1,300ft (300-400m) and remain airborne for four to five days. Data generated by the system would be processed using the UAE’s new common UAV ground station, developed by Ucon Systems and the centre as part of the VTOL UAV technology demonstration. Ucon received its initial contracts to take part in the programme in August 2004.

The aerostat trials programme is expected to continue for at least two years and could lead to a multi-system acquisition.

Al Sber was jointly developed by Schiebel and the UAV research and technology centre in a comparative programme that has also involved the CybAero Apid 55 VTOL UAV.

If production approvals are secured, the Al Sber launch order would comprise 40 systems. Development work on the Apid 55, derived from CybAero’s Apid 5, is continuing, with both UAV types designed to work in an integrated architecture linked directly into the UAE’s broader network-centric architecture.

Longer-term research projects expected to be launched in the near- to medium-term include high- and medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned air vehicles, with the centre awaiting guidance from the UAE defence headquarters on programme requirements. Assessments of a variety of other UAV types, including fixed-wing tactical configurations and larger rotary-wing types, are also continuing.

The UAV centre was established in 2003 and is located at the Al Butein air base outside Abu Dhabi, operating alongside AFAD’s Space Reconnaissance Centre.

pics credits - Peter La Franchi