Embraer has revealed plans to "strengthen" its relationship with a Brazilian start-up building unmanned air vehicles (UAVs).

São José dos Campos-based Santos LAB emerged three years ago to supply a mini-UAV called the Caraca 2 to the Brazilian military, and rapidly forged partnerships with major airframers.

In 2011, Boeing promised to transfer the Insitu Scan Eagle to Santos if the Brazilian air force purchased the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Embraer also signed an agreement to help Santos LAB market UAVs to Brazilian militaries.

Both companies are now in discussions to strengthen that relationship further, Embraer confirms.

Embraer declines to elaborate if the discussions involved taking an ownership stake in Santos LAB, but in a media presentation on 3 October, Santos was listed among several wholly-owned subsidiaries of Embraer.

Embraer in 2011 acquired ownership stakes in two other Brazilian start-ups - Atech and OrbiSat. The latter markets a medium-sized UAV called the Sarvant. Embraer also has formed a joint venture with Brazil's AEL to adapt the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 to Brazilian military requirements.

Embraer is now the sole bidder to win a $4 billion contract with the Brazilian army to establish an integrated surveillance network over the country's vast Amazon borders with other South American countries. The network is expected to emphasise surveillance by long-endurance UAVs.

Source: Flight International