Thailand's defence ministry is starting a programme to develop an unmanned air vehicle capability, with the goal of eventually establishing a dedicated air force squadron.
"Aerial reconnaissance plays the most important role in data collection for commander decisions, and has a major impact in a mission's success," it says. "To deploy aircraft, pilots and crew over dangerous conflict areas is a risky and costly operation. Modern and advanced UAV technology will help to reduce that risk and cost."
The ministry adds that "UAV procurement, together with research work, will help prepare for mission and personnel readiness. This will also help acquire the technology to help the Royal Thai Air Force to establish a UAV squadron."
There are three objectives to the UAV programme, the ministry says. The first is to buy and develop smaller UAVs and associated equipment. Next, it wants to begin research and development into medium and large UAVs. Finally, it aims to reduce its dependence on imports by having an indigenous capability.
Three categories of UAV are being sought. The smallest would have a range of less than 15km (8.1nm), a 4,000ft (1,220m) service ceiling and an operational speed of not more than 30kt (55km/h). Its payload would be around 5kg (11lb) and endurance 1.5h.
The medium UAV would have a range of up to 30km, fly at up to 5,000ft at a maximum speed of 50kt, and carry a payload of around 10kg. Endurance would be 2.5h.
To fly for up to 6h, the largest system would have a maximum range of 100km with a 25kg payload, the ministry says. The aircraft would have a service ceiling of 10,000ft and fly at up to 60kt, it adds.
Source: Flight International