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IAI seeks customer to advance unmanned helicopter work

Israel Aerospace Industries' plan to convert manned helicopters for unmanned operations depends on receiving a contract from a launch customer, with the remaining work requiring major investment.

Earlier this year, IAI said preliminary tests had proved conversion is possible. The company performed a series of tests using a Bell 212. To prove the accuracy of the flight control system, a basketball was attached to the helicopter with a rope, before the aircraft was manoeuvred repeatedly so the ball entered a basket placed on the ground.

Israeli experts say hovering an unmanned helicopter is the easy part, but "the problem gets really big when it comes to landing in an unprepared area".

Also this year, the Israeli Defence Forces' ground forces command initiated a research and development programme aimed at developing "hovering platforms" capable of lifting heavy weights. In 2011, Elbit Systems received a contract to develop a cargo unmanned air system - dubbed the "Flying Elephant" - to fly resupply missions to the frontline.

Elbit's system is based on a wheeled cargo pallet that can be loaded with 1,000kg (2,200lb) of ammunition, food or water and flown to a location using a parafoil and GPS navigation.

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