One of Russia's leading developers of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) has revealed a new concept for a medium-altitude long-endurance aircraft aimed at the commercial market, designed for keeping watch over ice floes in the country's Arctic shipping lanes.
Moscow-based Transas is mainly known for developing avionics and simulator systems for Russian aircraft, but it has become increasingly active in the UAV market.
Its 50kg (110lb)-class Filin is in service with Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations, and Transas also acknowledges it is working on an undisclosed military UAV project.
Now, however, the company is exploring interest from the commercial market in UAV technologies, starting with its Orion concept.
"We are working on this," confirms Vladimir Voronov, chief marketing officer of Transas' unmanned air systems division.
The aircraft, which is roughly the same size as Elbit's Hermes 450 UAV, was shown at the company's MAKS stand as a twin-boomed aircraft carrying a forward-looking infrared sensor and a common datalink.
Later versions could also be equipped with a satellite antenna to enable beyond line-of-sight operations, says Voronov.
Transas unveiled the aircraft at Russia's biggest air show to gauge interest from potential customers before deciding whether to move forward with the project, he says.
The Orion is being pitched as a way to overcome a safety risk as more ships use the warming Arctic seas, despite the continuing presence of icebergs and other navigation hazards.
If it receives sufficient customer interest, Transas envisages the first aircraft entering service within three years.
Integrating UAVs into civil airspace has been controversial in many countries, but Voronov believes Transas can sidestep many of the safety concerns due to the remote nature of Russia's arctic airspace.
Meanwhile, Transas has also experimented with using automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast technology as another way to reduce the risk of air-to-air collisions.