Rafael is continuing to explore the use of a canister launcher as a development option for its Skylite B mini-unmanned air vehicle, but says it will standardise on catapult take-off for production versions, including those now on offer to the Israeli army.

The manufacturer is also offering a catapult-launched version to meet army requirements in Chile and another, undisclosed, South American country, said company officials during last month’s FIDAE air show in Santiago.

A canister-launched Skylite B is seen as also having great potential for naval surveillance applications when launched from a small patrol vessel. The canister system uses a small booster motor with a burn time of 1.5s to propel the UAV to a height of 260ft (80m).

Interest in adopting a canister-launch system follows a Rafael study that indicates that hand-launching is a major source of small UAV losses, due to user inexperience and a high degree of variance in launch techniques.

Meanwhile, Rafael is looking at developing an air-launched version of the Skylite B suitable for carriage and launch from a helicopter, again using a booster motor. The company says an air-launched demonstration is not currently planned, but that the UAV’s launch dynamics are expected to have close parallels to the rotary deployment of its Spike anti-armour missile.

Rafael demonstrated a folding wing, canister-launched version of its original Skylite UAV in early 2004. Its current Skylite B has a fixed wing, but retains the earlier design’s folding wing mounting pylon on its upper fuselage.

Source: Flight International