Saab has moved to expand its offering in the unmanned air vehicle sector, signing a strategic partnering agreement with privately owned firm Swiss UAV to jointly develop and market three vertical take-off and landing designs.

To be announced on 20 May, the move will expand Saab's unmanned air system portfolio to include its Skeldar V200 demonstrator and Swiss UAV's Neo S-300 and Koax X-240 designs. The systems have maximum take-off weights of 200kg (440lb), 75kg and 45kg, respectively, with the smallest to be offered primarily for law enforcement and other civilian applications.

"This is a first step, and a way for us to address the market," says Pontus Kallén, managing director for Saab Aerosystems. The company has already received several requests for information from military and civil customers for operational UAS, he adds. "This is a new market, but you need to have something to show the customers to explain the whole concept."

All three systems are now being offered in combination with a Saab-developed common ground control station. Initial flight trials have already been conducted in Switzerland "to verify autonomous behaviour and the capabilities of the systems", the Swedish firm says.

Saab Aerosystems is continuing its development work on the Skeldar system, and expects to conduct test flights with a new rotor design "this autumn", says Mikael Franzén, its programme director, UAV systems. Saab could make production deliveries of the design within six and 12 months of receiving a contract award, he adds.

Saab has been required to perform extensive modifications to the Skeldar system since obtaining rights to modify CybAero's Apid 55 unmanned helicopter design earlier this decade. But Franzén says the volume of unexpected work is not expected to be repeated with the Swiss-designed Koax and Neo systems.

"We have more knowledge this time," he said during a 19 May briefing at Saab's Linköping site in Sweden. "We don't expect to do any big design changes."

Source: Flight International