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IAI completes unmanned helicopter development work

Israel Aerospace Industries has completed the development of its naval rotary unmanned air vehicle system, and expects to secure its first contract before the end of this year.

Intended primarily for use from naval vessels, the NRUAV has already been evaluated by India, and sources say Israel is also following development efforts due to a potential requirement to field unmanned helicopters with its navy missile boats.

Developed by IAI's Malat division, the NRUAV kit replaces a manned helicopter's avionics suite with a flight-control system originally designed for the company's Heron medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV. This allows fully autonomous flight, including take-off and landing, says IAI, which has already conducted remote control tests using Aerospatiale Alouette III and Bell 206 helicopters.

© Israel Aerospace Industries

Able to carry additional fuel because of the lightweight FCS, an unmanned Alouette (above) would have an endurance of 5.5h and be able to operate 120km (65nm) from its host ship, according to IAI. The NRUAV is offered with a number of different payload options, including an electro-optical/infrared sensor, maritime search radar, and communications and electronic intelligence sensors.

IAI first pursued an unmanned rotorcraft in the late 1980s with its Hellstar hovering UAV, but terminated the programme after its prototype was damaged in a hard landing. The company believes there is now a large potential market for the NRUAV concept.