Mexican-based Hydra Technologies has unveiled the country’s first fully indigenously developed UAV system with a launch order expected by the end of this year.
The Ehecatl system, named after the Aztec God of the wind, has been under development for five years with close support from Mexican national authorities and the Mexican National Polytechnics Institute.
The production ready version, the S4 Ehecatl, forms part of the first ever Mexican national participation in the Paris air show.
Initial Ehecatl series demonstrators began flying four years ago, with the S4 making its first flight in 2006.
Hydra Technologies is currently negotiating orders with Mexican armed forces, which commissioned the development to ensure national independence in unmanned systems. Mexico plans to operate the UAVs in cooperation with existing manned surveillance platforms such as its Embraer EMB-145 airborne surveillance and Northrop Grumman E2 Hawkeye AEW aircraft, says Hydra business development manager Alvaro Gutierrez.
Core missions for the new UAV will include border surveillance, counter-narcotics and smuggling operations, and support in the event of natural disasters.
Hydra Technologies was established in 2001 by a consortium of Mexican companies in response to the domestic military requirement. Despite the dominance of the neighbouring US aerospace and defence industries, Ehecatl development purposely excluded use of components sourced from America.
This frees the UAV from US trade restrictions, meaning Hydra retains full freedom in marketing and selling the UAV internationally. The sole exception aboard the S4 Ehecatl is the adoption of a FLIR systems infra-red sensor, which would be replaced by systems sourced outside of the US for international sales.
For the Mexican military requirement, Hydra has teamed with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems with that firm to integrate intelligence data supplied from Ehecatl into the Mexican national command and control architecture.
The S4 configuration Ehecatl has a 3.7m (12ft) span and a MTOW of 55kg (120lb), including a 9kg (20lb) payload. It has an endurance of 8hr when cruising at 38kt.
Maximum speed is 90kt. It has a ceiling of 15,000ft, with extensive flight testing, including launch and recovery, carried out at 5,000ft-6,000ft to ensure the system could perform in Mexico’s high-plateau country.
Modular techniques have been used in developing the all composite airframe. Gutierrez says tests have proved the design can withstand severe environmental conditions and rough landings. The central fuselage provides some lift, though its lines are intended to assist smooth airflow and reduce radar cross section.
Guiterrez says that low observability elements of the design, means it can be effective against organised crime cartels in central America.
Those cartels already field a variety of military standard systems, including radar and optical sensing systems as well as heavy weapons, to protect their drug delivery operations.