Israel Aerospace Industries and Honeywell have teamed to provide a sense and avoid system for the former’s Heron unmanned air vehicle fleet; a development that could eventually lend itself to the former’s offering for the German air force.
The companies were selected by the US-Israeli Binational Industrial Research and Development foundation to develop the air-to-air radar-based system, which is expected to be test flown in Israel in 2018.
“To be capable to fly in a segregated area, especially alongside civilian traffic, the aircraft must have this type of equipment,” Shaul Shahar, executive vice-president of IAI's military aircraft group, tells FlightGlobal. “Our goal is to start flying on the Heron by 2018, and bring this even earlier. We want to be the first.”
While Shahar notes that all of the company's Heron 1 and TP customers would be interested in the capability, its selection by the German air force with Airbus Defence & Space on a service basis in January could be a key use for the sense and avoid capability.
“The timetable we understand was to reach the contract stage in 2016, and we still hope we will be able to meet that,” Shahar says of the pending German contract.
Competitor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and RUAG pitched an MQ-9 Reaper-based offering for the tender, and have said that they still hope Berlin could select the type.
Germany has previously been vocal about its desire to fly its UAVs in national airspace, so the sense and avoid capability could lend itself to the TP offering.
“We are in the middle of that [contract] process… we are trying our best,” Shahar says. “In the end it is the customer’s call. I will be confident in this deal when I sign the contract.”
Meanwhile, the Brazilian Heron 1-derived Caçador UAV, developed by the IAI co-owned AS Avionics, has carried out its first flight in Sao Paulo.
The Heron has been operated by the Brazilian federal police since 2010, and the Caçador is designed to meet the nation's requirements, IAI says.