UMS Skeldar is awaiting the results of a Royal Australian Navy competition for an unmanned rotorcraft, which it is confident will be filled by its V200 unmanned air vehicle.
The RAN is acquiring one system to carry out land-based risk-reduction testing and training ahead of a full-scale acquisition of a UAV for ship-borne operations onboard the new frigates that it is acquiring. Bids were submitted in April and a downselect is expected in the second half of 2016.
Carl Foucard, deputy head of business development and head of sales for Skeldar, says that the UAV’s Hirth heavy-fuel engine matches the RAN’s propulsion requirement, and the company is ready to supply the system – which consists of an undisclosed number of aircraft – to the RAN in line with its aim to begin operating as soon as possible. Skeldar has an endurance of some 5h with a multi-sensor payload.
The land-based testing will help the navy learn about operating a rotary-wing UAV, which Foucard praises because he says it takes some time to master operating such a system.
There is no indication if Canberra wishes to arm its chosen UAVs, and a system like the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout would be more suited to this.
“For now, it is clearly stated that they want to test a broad range of sensors,” Foucard notes. “We are proposing electro-optical/infrared and some others such as radar.”
UMS Aero and Saab formed a joint venture in December to promote the latter’s Skeldar and the former’s two fixed-wing and one rotary-wing UAV, as Saab made a strategic decision to move away from unmanned system development.
Skeldar’s only known success prior to this was a series of trials with the Spanish navy, but since the JV was established, it has been pushed into a number of potential new areas including land-based operations and commercial applications.
Skeldar is being pitched for a “substantial” South East Asian navy requirement for a mixed-type fleet, an announcement for which is imminent.
UMS Skeldar is also eyeing Mexico and Colombia with Skeldar for funded requirements that are expected to be released soon, for quickly-deployed drug-related crime surveillance.
The company is looking for local partners to team with for these, in order to strengthen the offering.
The UAV was also recently trialled for an offshore application in Norway, and has been demoed in Uruguay. UMS Skeldar is also anticipating a tender from the German navy for a ship-based unmanned rotorcraft, although it is not yet known how the acquisition will pan out, and if it will be leased or purchased outright.