Portable lightweight system developed for frontline use by small combat units

Rafael's Skylite unmanned air vehicle could become Israel's first platoon-level intelligence system for use in urban warfare, with the country planning a series of field tests of the vehicle, equipped with a variety of sensors.

Recent extensive use of tactical UAVs to support Israeli operations in Palestinian Authority-controlled territory has highlighted a need for a lightweight system that can be operated autonomously by small combat units.

The electrically powered Skylite (formerly named Skylark) has been developed for use by frontline units, with one soldier able to carry two 6.5kg (14.3lb) air vehicles in a backpack. Each 1.1m (3.6ft) -long air vehicle is stored in a shoulder launch canister, with the 1.7m-span wing stowed before its launch using a booster motor.

A second backpack is used to carry ground control station equipment, with the mission planned and co-ordinated from a laptop. Rafael says the Skylite can perform a fully autonomous mission using pre-programmed waypoints before being recovered using a ground net.

Imagery from the UAV's TV sensor is relayed to the laptop or can be sent directly into the cockpit of an attack helicopter via Rafael's Ravnet 300 datalink, the company says. The air vehicle has an endurance of over 1h, an operational radius of 10km (5.4nm) and a flight speed of around 30kt (55km/h).

Rafael says the current payload is capable of identifying individuals, and that an infrared sensor will also be available for use by early 2005. Other planned payloads include image stabilisation, super-resolution imaging and motion detection capabilities.

Beyond its potential deployment by infantry forces, the UAV is also suitable for deployment from ground vehicles, helicopters or naval vessels, says Alex Gan, head of Rafael's operational requirements team.

Rafael is already marketing its Skylite design to several potential export customers, he says.



Source: Flight International