Saab is pitching its Skeldar rotary-wing unmanned aircraft as a potential anti-piracy solution to South Africa.

"We're offering it to South Africa - all of sub-Saharan Africa, actually," says Katharina Ronnberg, Saab's business development director for tactical unmanned aircraft. "It's great for anti-piracy."

Saab is in search of its first customer as it completes the development of the aircraft, which was privately funded. "It will be on the market by the end of the year," she says.

While flight-testing is ongoing, the company is already in discussions with a number of governments. The most immediate prospect is the Skeldar's home market of Sweden, but also the US Navy, US Army and special operations forces, Ronnberg says.

The Skeldar will probably not be a challenger to the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout, but Ronnberg says it could take on missions currently flown by the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle.

"This is a small tactical [unmanned air vehicle]," Ronnberg says. "This is something that could absolutely replace the ScanEagle. It's so much easier to take-off and land."

Ronnberg says the Skeldar can be readily deployed onboard ships, especially if a manned helicopter has previously been integrated. So can the ground station, which is designed to fit into existing shipboard consoles.

Another advantage of the Skeldar is that its 55hp (40kW) engine runs on diesel fuel, rather than the more volatile gasoline. This gives the aircraft an endurance of 5-6h and a range of about 54nm (100km). The aircraft carries a modular sensor payload.

Source: Flight International