A powered-parafoil unmanned air vehicle capable of using atmospheric thermals to extend its mission is under development for use in Iraq. Being developed by Atair Aerospace under contract to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the slow-flying, long-endurance vehicle is intended to take over the loitering surveillance role for which Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAVs and other scarce, expensive assets are now being used routinely in Iraq.

The UAV has a 30m (100ft) -span elliptical parfoil wing and a take-off weight of 1,180kg (2,600lb), including a 90kg surveillance payload and 860kg of fuel - enough for at least 48h endurance, says Atair chief executive and lead engineer Dan Preston.

Designed to cruise at around 30kt (55km/h), the autonomous vehicle is powered by a 160hp (120kW) Deltahawk diesel engine. Brooklyn, New York-based Atair plans to fly the UAV in the third quarter, and the first vehicle is expected to be fielded in Iraq this year.

Source: Flight International