The Australian navy will experiment with the operation of unmanned air vehicles from warships with the objective of outlining requirements for a formal capability.

"[The] navy will be undertaking experimentation with maritime tactical unmanned aerial systems (UAS) throughout 2012-2014 to become an informed user in preparation for a business case to establish a project," Australia's department of defence said in an email to Flightglobal.

Operations will take place on a number of ships to help the navy better understand limitations and factors that affect UAS performance in a maritime environment. It will conduct the work with three systems: the Insitu Pacific ScanEagle, the AAI Aerosonde 4.7G and Schiebel S-100 Camcopter.

"At this point, there are only three heavy fuel engine UAS in operation in the Australian region that have suitable performance characteristics to meet the scope of experimentation envisaged," said the department of defence.

"Should any other tier two UAS operating a proven heavy fuel engine become available, consideration will be given to their use, noting that the air vehicle is only one aspect of experimentation and payload functionality is the greater focus," it added.

Source: Flight International