Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero) has unveiled a new version of its hand-launched short-range Skyblade unmanned air vehicle that incorporates modifications requested by the Singapore ministry of defence.

ST Aero has added an interchangeable payload and proportional module to give the UAV the flexibility to be deployed on a wider range of missions. The Skyblade II, designed with a sensor pod that can be slotted in multiple locations including under the fuselage, is also easier to handle and can be turned around quicker than its predecessor.

The ministry conducted a concept demonstration of the initial Skyblade last year and asked ST Aero to develop "a more flexible soldier-proof version", says ST Aero advanced systems department chief engineer and director Tan Jiak Kwang. "There were some shortcomings from a handling point of view."

ST Aero has not made any changes to the 1.2m (3.9ft) -long wing and the range remains 8km (4.3nm) at a maximum speed of 70kt (130km/h). But the endurance has doubled from 1h to 2h under internal combustion and the option of an electric version with a 1h range is now being offered.

While ST Aero is hoping the ministry of defence will soon test and place orders for the Skyblade II, the company also will begin marketing the UAV to potential civil and paramilitary customers overseas after development testing is completed later this quarter.

The Skyblade II, unveiled last week at the Global Security Asia conference in Singapore, is intended for over-the-hill reconnaissance missions by small army and navy fighting units and airfield surveillance by the air force. It costs about $200,000 per system, including one ground station and three aircraft.

ST Aero's fledging UAV unit has not yet sold any aircraft but is confident sales for both the Skyblade II and its Fantail vertical take-off and landing UAV will materialise by year-end. A primitive version of the Fantail, designed for urban operations, is already available and Tan says a more mature system will be available from August.


Source: Flight International