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Larger Flying Elephant carries out cargo drop tests

The new larger variant of the Elbit Systems/Bluebird Flying Elephant cargo-carrying unmanned air vehicle prototype has completed a series of air drops.

In the recent series of tests, the Flying Elephant performed accurate cargo air drops from heights of 26-39ft.

Sources say the system proved its capability to perform the mission "very accurately" and under "complex" conditions.

As reported by Flightglobal in March, the current version of the Flying Elephant is larger and powered by a more powerful engine than the previous variant.

The programme was initiated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to carry out resupply missions in support of combat personnel. Recent conflicts such as the one in Lebanon demonstrated the mission was needed by ground units.

The UAV consists of a motorised parafoil with servo systems to ensure its aerodynamic shape. A GPS system is used to navigate the system. The operational version will have a 100m<sup>2</sup> parafoil and will be powered by a 300hp engine, capable of carrying 1,500kg (3,307lb) of payload on a pallet.

The Elbit proposal was selected for the programme, and BlueBird was chosen as sub-contractor.

BlueBird has adopted advanced para-wing technology to enable the air system to achieve a speed of up to 45kt (83km/h), with the design capable of being flown in harsh weather conditions.

While the project is moving towards series production, a debate is being carried out between the Israeli air force (IAF) and the IDF’s ground forces as to which will operate the UAV.

The IAF says, as the Flying Elephant will fly in areas saturated with UAVs, it should be controlled by its units, while ground forces claim it should be controlled by the ground units it is going to serve.

A similar debate erupted when the IDF's artillery units received their first Elbit Skylark UAVs.

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