Sagem has been contracted to supply its Patroller system to the French army as the service's new tactical unmanned air vehicle, some two months after Paris confirmed its selection of the type.
Witnessed by French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the contract signing between France’s DGA procurement agency and Sagem’s parent company Safran on 5 April firms up the provision of 14 Patroller UAVs for the army, with operations to begin in 2018.
Funding is contained in France’s 2014-2019 military spending plan, and will see the Patroller replace the Sperwer UAV, also developed by Sagem. It will operate in the army’s 61st artillery regiment, which comes under the service’s intelligence brigade.
The DGA announced in February Patroller had won the competition against the rival Watchkeeper system offered by Thales. Paris is the first customer for the UAV, despite Sagem's tireless efforts.
“The Patroller drone won a hard-fought competition for this contract,” the manufacturer says.
Patroller is a surveillance UAV with a 20h endurance at 20,000ft, and can carry a 250kg (551lb) multi-sensor payload that can be integrated in the body of the airframe or mounted in pods.
Sagem leads a number of French companies in manufacturing the UAV, plus German company Ecarys which supplies the ES-15 airframe for the Patroller.
The company is hopeful the success with its domestic customer will help pique export interest. "The French ministry of defence's choice of the Patroller certifies its performance and quality, giving Sagem a major advantage in seizing export opportunities for surveillance drones,” Martin Sion, chief executive of Sagem, says.
“Several countries have already expressed their interest in the Patroller, especially in Asia and the Middle East."
Sagem announced in September it had teamed up with the AOI-Aircraft Factory to offer the Patroller to the Egyptian armed forces.
The “exclusive commercial and industrial collaboration agreement” signed with the Egyptian manufacturer will enable Sagem to pitch its UAV, alongside a domestic partner, to the Egyptian defence ministry, although no order has been announced.
AOI-Aircraft Factory would be responsible for final assembly of the Patroller in-country, and would provide system support and commissioning, according to Sagem.