Israel Aerospace Industries is developing an aerial refuelling system for its Heron TP medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system, with the programme based on the use of an unmanned in-flight refuelling tanker.
Already capable of a maximum endurance of 50h, a Heron TP would be able to stay over an area of interest for an extended period if an in-flight refuelling capability was available.
In operational use with the Israeli air force and being offered to several potential international customers, the Heron TP can carry a range of payloads and sensors, and has a maximum speed of 113kt (210km/h).
Israel Aerospace Industries
Meanwhile, IAI's Malat division is preparing to make the first test flight of a UAS powered by a heavy fuel engine, with the milestone scheduled within the next few months.
The use of heavy fuel has been evaluated for some time - first with smaller UAS like IAI's Searcher - but has not resulted in any operational decision. The planned test may determine the future potential for the adaptation on series production UAS, or as an upgrade.
Sources say it is only a matter of time until many UAS will be powered by heavy fuel engines, with some companies investing heavily in the development of heavy fuel power packs.