Textron Systems is awaiting the results of three international military tenders, for which it has offered its pair of unmanned air vehicles.
It has pitched the yet-to-be-fielded M2 variant of its RQ-7 Shadow tactical UAV to France,in partnership with Airbus Defence & Space.
And to answer a joint sea- and land-based requirement from the Netherlands, and a request from the Saudi Ministry of Interior, it has offered the smaller Aerosonde system currently operated by the US armed forces.
The new heavy-fuel M2 and a satellite communications beyond-line-of-sight variant of the Shadow have both completed flight-test campaigns, says William Irby, senior vice-president and general manager of Textron’s Unmanned Systems, but are yet to be fielded.
Meanwhile the US military as yet does not have a requirement for the upgraded M2, but may consider acquiring the type later into its lifetime.
In addition, Aerosonde has seen traction in the commercial market, and Textron is keen to further expand into this area.
“In the commercial market there’s no tolerance for low reliability,” Irby says, noting that as the commercial sector grows there will also be less tolerance for the cost associated with high-end systems.
Irby predicts that the prolific commercial UAV industry will begin to consolidate in the next five years to offer more robust products to the market, and Textron, as a systems integrator, has experience in bringing different parts together.
Aerosonde is already offered through a fee-for-services model, which Irby sees as a “major trend” in the commercial market.
Although Aerosonde is the main driver for Textron in the commercial sector, it is also open to the possibility of offering the Shadow, although the size, cost, endurance and payload capability of the former makes it more appealing for potential applications, Irby says.