Surveillance unmanned air vehicle will offer 18-24h mission endurance from an altitude of more than 25,000ft

South Africa's Denel has unveiled a modular design for a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicle, and plans to flight test the platform for the first time in 2006. Intended to offer a mission endurance of 18-24h from more than 25,000ft (7,630m), the Bateleur surveillance UAV will have a 15m wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of 1,000kg (2,200lb), including a 200kg sensor payload.

A proposed sensor suite for the aircraft includes turret-housed electro-optic and infrared sensors, plus a laser rangefinder, with options to include the integration of a synthetic aperture radar and electronic and communications intelligence equipment, says Denel. The Bateleur will also have a satellite communications capability and could act as a communications relay platform, it says. The design is expected to have a mission radius of 750km (400nm), a maximum cruise speed of 135kt (250km/h) and a minimum loiter speed of 65kt.

Denel launched the company-funded Bateleur development programme earlier this year, with the MALE UAV design being pursued predominantly for the export market. As well as conducting medium-altitude surveillance tasks, the design could also have application for maritime patrol and other naval operations, says Denel Aerospace Systems' Aubrey Lynn. No consideration has been given to enable the UAV to carry air-launched weapons, although these could be integrated at a later point, he says.

The composite Bateleur design is based around a central fuselage module that can be equipped with a larger wing, a belly payload module and different propulsion systems to meet diverse operational requirements, says Denel. The common fuselage core could also be used as the basis for the future development of a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV.

Denel's planned 2006 demonstration of the Bateleur will draw on its experience in the unmanned vehicle sector, with the new platform to use some avionics in common with the Denel-built Searcher II UAV and Skua target drone. To be capable of fully autonomous operation, including take-off and landing, the new system will also make use of the same ground control station as the Seeker II, says Denel.

Source: Flight International