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The post--afghanistan era: Attitudes towards drones are changing with the withdrawal from Afghanistan and with a general switch of attentions to the Asia--Pacific region. The relative freedom with which drones have been operated over south-west Asia will be replaced by severe restrictions on their use in the airspace of their owner--nations, where integration with manned aircraft poses many (as yet) unresolved problems.

In addition, the change from an uncontested operating environment to one in which (in the event of war) a hitech enemy would use advanced weapon systems to deny drone access, will prioritise survivability over cost. This new situation will act as a catalyst for the development of stealthy and hypersonic penetrating drones, and may result in the early retirement of large numbers of suddenly obsolete products, possibly to be released to carefully selected segments of the international market.

Many nations are critically examining America's use of armed drones, which (when combined with electronic and human intelligence--gathering) has proved a cost-effective way to decapitate terrorist groups, though not without collateral casualties and damage.

There are doubts over the legality of drone strikes, especially those outside recognised conflict zones. Indeed, some commentators would like to see the political and military leaders responsible tried for war crimes.

It is against this background that some of the leading Nato countries are formalising their attitudes to armed drones, which many observers view as a development rendered inevitable by progress in air defence systems and the growing value placed on (friendly) human lives.

Some nations with colonising pasts are buying drones that are suitable only for use, in uncontested airspace, perhaps envisaging an enduring duty to intervene in African affairs, if only to maintain access to crucial raw materials.

Looking further ahead, several European nations are already participating in the development of advanced Ucav projects, seeing them not only as natural successors to manned attack aircraft and eventually fighters, but also as affordable means to retain hitech aerospace teams.

As a growing number of nations around the world buy increasingly capable drones, one multi--billion--dollar question is: who will supply those oil--rich nations that the United States does not want to see operating such drones? We may be seeing something analogous to that period in the fighter market, when America tried to restrict many international buyers to the lightweight F--5. Who will provide today's drone marketing equivalent of the yesterday's Dassault Mirage fighter? I LATEST DEVELOPMENTS WORLDWIDE International developments and cooperations are now becoming so widespread it becomes difficult to allocate them a true origin, not to say continent. This is particularly true of the smaller to medium types, which the following typify, although the trend will inevitably spread to the larger sub--Male or Male types, which as we explain further down, may leave Europe abandoned by the wayside if its nations keep disagreeing on a common design instead of many of them ending up buying the same types from America or Israel, which must be the epitome of absurdity--especially that certain nations like France and Germany have gathered quite valuable experience in the large drone field, notably with the Sagem Patroller, which has been flying for a while now without having experienced a crash to date, at least to our knowledge.

A recent example of this international technological cross--feeding is the announcement made by Northrop Grumman of its Rotary Bat in early May. Also called the R--Bat for short, this bird combines an rotary-wing airframe developed and produced by Yamaha with Northrop Grumman's extensive expertise in the field of control and intelligence gathering equipment, notably through its experience with the US Navy Fire Scouts--both the Schweizer--and Bell Helicopter--based types. The Yamaha Rmax (the airframe's original designation) itself is not devoid of experience either, because in its crop-spraying form it apparently has fleet--logged more than two million flight hours over more than 2.4 million acres of Japanese farmland.

* Literally on the heels of the R--Bat, another newcomer arrived in the form of the Apex from L--3, with mixed DNA. A tail--less blended wing and fuselage with downward--pointing winglets, the Apex, particularly with its neck--mounted secondary wing (not a canard) looks like a scaled-down Harpycum--Bat mixed bred--only that it's a lot smaller and electrically powered (courtesy of Axi of the Czech Republic). The airframe is in fact derived from the upward--looking winglet equipped, well--proven and widely exported Israeli Aeronautics mini Orbiter. The Apex is currently offered with the Controp T--Stamp gimballed electro--optical sensor, but able to use American payloads throught a an L-3-developed interface.

The T--Stamp uses a cooled infrared sensor, the extra power consumption of which compared to an uncooled type, according to an L--3 official contacted by the author, offsets the slight penalty on the bird's seven-hour endurance due to the higher resolution these offer. More striking is the news that L--3 says that the Apex has already been demonstrated to several potential customers over the past 18 months and that is has already been acquired by an American government operator. For more technical specifications, please refer to our fold--out table herewith inserted.

The Arrow Lite comes third in this list of newcomers, manufactured by Stark Aerospace, Israel Aerospace Industries' American company based in Columbus (which actually produces the famous Hunter for Northrop Grumman).

The hand--launched was developed with a special target, which was to provide the "Program Manager for Tactical Operations Support, (PM TOS), Combatting (sic) Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO)", with an observation means for use by "special operations and tactical units of dominance". Here too, and in spite of being recently unveiled, the Arrow Lite is already in use, with deliveries of 13 systems including 39 aircraft and ground equipment delivered to date. The customer is believed to be the US Army.

The new drone announcement came a few days after the introduction by Stark Aerospace of a new electro--optical payload, namely the Stark Lite 200, a two-axis lightweight multiple sensor unit actually developed by Next Vison as the Orion. This Israeli company has signed an agreement with Stark Aerospace to see this item marketed as the Stark Lite in the United States.


With the merging of Utri's capabilities within Selex ES drone business at Ronchi dei legionari (Trieste) almost completed, the micro--and mini-drones of the former startup company have shifted from prototype to fully industrialised iems with the first nowbeing delivered to the Italian Army.

Acquired within the Army digitisation programme known as Forza NEC, the two micro vertilift drones have been deeply modified with customer inputs. The "Pinerolo" Brigade, the first Medium Brigade equipped with the Freccia 8x8, is the first to receive the the Spyball -B microdrone.

The Spyball--A had two counter--rotating fixed--blades rotors, each powered by an electric brushless motor. Though the new B maintains the ducted--fan architecture, it features a single twin variable--pitch blade rotor and engine, counter--torque spin being reined in by fixed fins in the lower duct flow. According to Selex ES engineers two factors dictated the change: first is a lack of reliable mathematic models to simulate counter--rotating rotors aerodynamic interference, and secondly the better roll and pitch control provided by variable--pitch blades. The Spyball--B could have lost the "ball" part of its name due to its new aspect. Its launch weight has nearly doubled at two kilos, with an external diameter expanded from 250 mm to 480 for a ducted fan length of 356 mm. Horizontal speed has doubled from four to eight metres per second. Once tilted the drone's payload faces downwards and includes a 0.025 Lux sensitivity camera with 640x480 resolution and 46[degrees] field of view, can be replaced by a 320x240 uncooled thermal sensor. Lythium--polymer batteries, located in a cruciform structure installed above the rotor, provide a half an hour endurance, operational range being around 2.5 km.

The larger four-legged Asio--B will soon equip Italian Army cavalry units, but also features a single variable--pitch blade rotor, but with three blades. Empty weight is increased from 5.5 to 6.5 kg, while payload capacity grows from 0.8 to 1.5 kg. The external diameter is of 620 mm versus 450 mm for the A--version. Height is slightly reduced, 0.6 versus 0.7 meters; partly due to the army's decision to give-up the perching option, and keeping only a bottom payload. Two sensors are currently offered, a low--light two-axis stabilised CCD camera with a x10 optical zoom with a viewing angle of 5.4[degrees] to 50[degrees], or a 35[degrees] field of view 320x240-pixel uncooled thermal camera. A laser 1,500-meter capable rangefinder comes on option. Operational range is 3.5 km, ceiling is 2,100 metres and operational altitude 100 metres. Also equipped with four legs, its take-off and landing procedures are similar to those of the Spyball--B.

Both drones are qualified to Stanag 4703--Edition 1 adapted to ducted fain air vehicles, while the command and control software obtained Level B Development Assurance Level under RTCA DO--178B standard. They use the same command and control station composed including a 7-inch touch screen to control both the drone and payload. A ruggedised notebook known as Core Unified Control System can be linked to the GCS to take over payload control, prepare missions and interface with higher command echelons.

The systems acquired within the current Forza NEC contract have already been produced and are awaiting the acceptance of the pilots' training syllabus before beong handed over to the military.

A third drone, but with fixed wings, has been added to the Forza NEC suite. Known as the Crex--B, is also a development of the earlier Utri Crex--A, although with less dramatic mods. Mainly itswingspan was increased by 30cm metres to 1.7 metres. The remarkably powerful brush less motor was retained which allows it to be launched from a light armoured vehicle, just passing it through the hatch, without exposing the operator to the enemy fire. Maximum speed is 110 km/h, cruise speed is around 36 km/h, while endurance settles at around 75 minutes atsea level. The Crex--B has a ceiling of 3,100 metres while its operational altitude is between 30 and 500 meters over ground. At higher altitudes the colour camera equipped with a x10 optical zoom can be used, viewing through a cone of between 4,6[degrees] and 46[degrees]. The alternative thermal sensor is a 320x240 pixel camera with a 40[degrees] field of view and a x2. digital zoom. A laser illuminator can be added. Producing an alleged 65 dB level from 50 metres, ills nearly inaudible in an urban environment and its aerodynamic efficiency of over 6:1 allows the motor to be switched off to glide--over an area of interest. The Crex--B uses the same ground control system as the Asio and Spyball.

Assembly of the Profalk prototype has started. Intended for use by small naval units, its design has been altered to adopt fuselage ducted fans, a Prandtl wing and a tail--mounted propeller.

As speed increases, the ducts are closed by a slat system, a solution adopted in Israel by UrbanAero for its AirMule. No details have been provided regarding dimensions, but the fuselage should be about two metres long and the wingspan slightly more. The take off weight should be around 25 kg. The plan is partly financed by the Italian Ministry of Defence and the aim is to provide a system that can be easily used from the flight deck of small ship. The technological demonstrator should fly by late 2014.

I AMERICAN ROADMAP Useful clues regarding the way ahead for drones are given by the Pentagon's "Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2013-38", although this provides no information on 'black' programmes such as the US Air Force's new Northrop Grumman stealthy subsonic penetrator.

To digress, this RQ-180 is believed to have originated in December 2005 as a larger, long-range/endurance spinoff from the US Air Force/Navy J-Ucas, which led to the same company's X-47B carrier--capable demonstrator. It is thought that the RQ--180 (of necessity) represents a major advance in all--aspect radar response, with special attention to low--and high-frequency emitters, in order to penetrate 'denied' airspace. From financial records, the main development contract is deduced to have been awarded to Northrop Grumman in 2008.

Details are provided in the Roadmap of the US DoD mid--2013 inventory of 10,964 drones. In Group I (up to 9.0 kg) there were 7,332 RQ--11 Ravens, 990 Wasps and 1,137 Pumas, all by AeroVironment, and 306 Honeywell RQ-16 T--Hawks. In Group 11 (9.0 to 25 kg) there were 206 Boeing/Insitu ScanEagles. In Group 111 (25 to 600 kg) there were 499 AAI RQ--7 Shadows, 18 Socom--operated Expeditionary UAS, and 20 Navy Marine Stuas.

In Group IV (over 600 kg, below 18,000 ft) the Department of Defense had 237 General Atomics MQ--1s, and 44 MQ--5 Hunters and 28 MQ--8 Fire Scouts, both types produced by Northrop Grumman.

All Fire Scouts are now MQ--8Cs based on the Bell 407 airframe, the "C" now belonging to history, although around 20 of the 30 built including prototypes--all owned by the US Navy--are still flying although they are planned to be phased out around the 20182019 timeframe.

The switch from the Schweizer 333 helicopter to the Bell 407 was motivated by two factors. First a requirement for extra range was issued as early as 2009, and Sikorsky, who owns Schweizer, had announced its intention to terminate the production of the '333. The new Fire Scout gained more than range (10 hours on a hot day), but also extra capacity. It now carries a Fur Brite Star II gimballed electro--optical sensor, and trials of with Telephonics AN/ZPN-4 radar started in early May 2014. The helicopter can also carry the hypespectral Cobra mine detector and could prove a usefull platform for sigint. The acquisition of a total 119 Fire Scout Cs is now planned by the Navy, but the US Marine Corps is now said to be eyeing the new performances offered by the C.

The longer range MQ--8C Fires Scout could now also attract the interest of foreign nations, particularly those with huge coastal waters to monitor like Australia, where it could perform missions at a fraction of the cost of the SH--60, particularly in antisubmarine warfare missions involving sonobuoys where the Fire Scout definitely has an edge regarding endurance.

In Group IV (over 600 kg, below 18,000 ft) the Department of Defense also had 237 General Atomics MQ--1s.

Talking of Predators, General Atomics is working on what it calls a "Nato certifiable Predator B". The aim is to come up with a drone based on the Block 5 version of the extended range Predator B that would comply with the Nato nations' individual standards and their airspace. The "Certifiable B" will have to feature a dual regard radar, an ADS system and, off course, a traffic collision avoidance system (also known as Tcas). The dual regard radar is currently being developed and is currently in flight test phase. It has the ability to detect what are termed "co--operating" and "non--co--operating targets". The drone is also being enhanced to offer more electrical power and endurance. General Atomics aim is to have the new aircraft ready by 2017 or 2018.

In Group V (over 600 kg, above 18,000 ft) there were 112 General Atomics MQ--9 Reapers and 35 Northrop Grumman RQ/MQ--4s Global Hawks.

The Roadmap makes it clear that, although American drone development will concentrate on technologies to ensure

Breathtaking view elan X--478 catching its arrestor line onboard the Harry Truman. Apparently the two demonstrators have consistently been catching the third cable. (Northrop Grumman)

"There are doubts over the legality of drone strikes, especially those outside recognised conflict zones"

"Who will provide today's drone marketing equivalent of the yesterday's Dassault Mirage fighter?"

Grossing out 93 kilos, the R--Bat is being marketed by Northrop Grumman and Yamaha as a an intelligence gathering and observation drone able to carry a payload of 19.5 kilos. It is 3.55 metres long, offers an endurance of over four hours and a data/ink range of 130 km.

The Stemme motorglider--based Patroller now flies with the "Expanded Performance" Euroflir 410 electro--optical stabilised pod said to near the best of L--3 and Flir in performance. The Patroller's simultaneous comint and imagery data transmission was demonstrated in 23 flights in mid-2013. (Sagem)

Launched from a small trailer-mounted catapult and parachute retrieved, the 28-kilo and 4.2-metre wingspan L--3 Apex has a range of over 100 kilometres. Its Czech--made Axi motor is powered by lithium--polymer batteries -- a bold solution but hence the comfortable endurance of seven hours. (L--3)

I According to Stark, the new 6.6-kilo Arrow Lite is made airworthy some 60 to 90 seconds from unpacking from its waterproof case. Electrically powered, it uses a two-axis gimballed elecro--optical sensor. (Stark Aerospace)

The Stark Lite, a.k.a. Orion, carries a high--resolution day camera able to click out 10 Megapix stills, a 640x480 LWIR sensor and a 300mW output laser for a weight of 240 grams.

The Asio--B, here seen with its console and data link will soon enter service with Italian Army Cavalry units. The upper cruciform structure contains the batteries. (Armada/P. Valpolini)

I The Spyball--B, seen here with all its ground systems, is being delivered to the Italian Army for its infantry units. (Selex ES)

Currenly under qualification, the Crex--B should replace Aerovironment Raven--A and -B in service with the 41st Regiment of the RSTA Brigade. It might soon be joined by a Crex--BK with higher performances, a greater wingspan, an endurance of over 100 minutes, and able to carry two different payloads at the same time.

The Northrop Grumman X--47B began flight trials in February 2011 and made the first arrested recovery of a drone to a carrier at sea on July 10, 2013, when it landed aboard CVN--77, USS George HW Bush. (US Navy).

A tentative drawing of the Profalk drone intended to serve on small naval units thanks to the adoption of a ducted fan configuration. (Selex ES)

Based on the Bell 407, the US Navy's Northrop Grumman MQ-8C first flew in October 2013. The second development aircraft (BuAer 168455, shown) followed on February 12,2014. (Northrop Grumman).

In February 2014 General Atomics received CI $ 7773 million contract under the MQ--9 Accelerated Extended Range effort to modify 38 US Air Force drones to this MQ--9 Extended Range standard. (General Atomics).

Perch--and--stare drones require development of various modules, including bird--like legs and feet, as tested here under AFRL funding, using a quadcopter. They will next be applied to a sparrowhawk--type drone. (Vishwa Robotics).

Eric H. Biass and Roy Braybrook, inputs from Paolo Valpolini dominance in A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) environments, "determined adversaries will target critical, less protected nodes such as South Asia, Africa and the Middle East", where existing assets may remain applicable, but enemy unmanned systems will complicate operations.

The report says little regarding new American types of drone, although it gives credence to the idea of a small bird-like, perch-and-stare design that can recharge itself on power cables. Some might regard this as unrealistic, in view of Darpa's crowd-sourcing UAVForge contest of 2012 to produce a soldier-portable, perch-and-stare ISR drone with beyond line-of-sight capability. Some 140 teams were reduced to nine for the fly-off, but (partly due to communication problems) no drone was able to land on the flat roof of a structure in the target area and complete the mission, so the $100,000 prize was not awarded.

However, the US Air Force Research Laboratory is continuing to pursue this dream, and is funding academic and commercial entities to develop the biomimicry modules required for a manmade bird that can watch from a building or a power cable or the branch of a tree.

A recently released video shows a quadcopter landing and locking itself on to a branch, using bird-like legs and feet developed by Dr Bhargav Gajjar of Vishwa Robotics. The next stage aims to combinethe leg/foot system with a remotely-controlled spa rrowhawk lookal ike.


Before moving on to the Uclass programme, a few words should be said at this stage on the UCAS-D. The initial aim of this programme was to demonstrate the ability of a tail-less and stealthy aircraft to operate from an aircraft carrier, with all the radio frequency interference this entails. What has been achieved so far by Northrop Grumman with the X-47 B was carried out under very prescribed environment ", to use the company's own words.

The first of two X-47Bs built aircraft took to the air on 4 February 2011 and had its first land-based catapult take-off on 29 November 2012 at Pax River Naval Air Station. This achieved, the real acid test, other than taking off from a deck, was to return on the deck and catch the arresting line. This truly historical event was achieved on 10 July 2013 on the George H. W. Bush (CVN77). So far, during deck-landing tests, the aircraft have consitently landed by catching the third arresting line.

The next step for the programme is to explore the interactions with other aircraft in what would be a "normal" mix of drone and other aircraft in "normal life", which could initially prove a little bit more complex than one could imagine, particularly on the part of the human side of things. Also part of this is to see how the whole mix reacts in tests during increasing adverse weather conditions.

As absurd as this might first sound when talking of a blind aircraft for which day or night should not make any difference, a series of night operations are also planned. In fact no more than a few seconds are required to realise that it is the humans, not the aircraft, that will be put to hard work in this instance. Indeed if adequate reflexes are not quickly acquired on such a dense and tight operational environment at night, havoc could quickly wreck in.

Current plans are to keep the two aircraft operating beyond the 2015 timeline with a view to study risk-reduction for future programmes, in other words continue to climb up the drone-carrier operation learning curve. Another area is the explorationand demonstration of autonomous air refuelling. The second aircraft has provision to be outfitted with the necessary gear, and the final aim is to indeed perform wet tests involving actual fuel transfer.


The principal new design referred to in the Roadmap is the US Navy's Uclass (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike) project, which is to become the first drone system to be deployed (as distinct from tested) aboard a carrier.

In August 2013 Naval Air Systems Command awarded $ 15 million, nine-month PDR (preliminary design review) contracts to Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for the Uclass air vehicle segment. These contracts led to the release of a draft request for proposals for the Uclass technology demonstration (TD) programme in Spring 2014, but companies involved were unauthorised to provide any farther details. It is understood, however, that the final requirements will still need to be delivered.

The US Navy plans to invest an estimated $ 3.7 billion in the Uclass TD programme during the period FY14-20 to develop, construct and field between six and 24 aircraft as an initial increment of Uclass capability. First flight is due in early 2017, and sea trials are to begin in late 2019. Early operational capability is planned for 2020.

However, because the US Navy regards the Uclass as a technology development programme, it does not plan to hold a Milestone B review (which would trigger key oversight mechanisms on cost, schedule and performance) until FY20, when the main development contract will be awarded.

The General Accountability Office is less than ecstatic about the Navy's oversight-evasive approach, especially as the Uclass is critically dependent on the development and delivery of other assets, such as Common Control System software and JPALS (Joint Precision Approach and Landing System).

Controversy erupted after the Pentagon's Joint Requirements Oversight Council in December 2012 downgraded Uclass stealth requirements, eliminated in-flight refuelling, and cut warload from 24 115-kg GBU -39 SDBs to just two 225 kg bombs. Whereas the original concept called for a long-range strike aircraft, able to attack inland targets while the carrier remained at a safe distance, the emphasis now appears to be on persistent counter-terrorist ISR in lightly contested airspace. The Uclass air vehicles on a carrier must be able to maintain one ISR orbit at 2,200 km or two orbits at 1,100 km, or attack a lightly defended target at 3,700 km radius.

The emasculation of Uclass has raised suspicions that the original concept was viewed as so expensive that it carried a high risk of cancellation, or that it posed a threat to manned aircraft programmes. Another theory is that its long-range strike mission has already been assigned by the Pentagon to a secret US Air Force land-based drone.


In terms of roles and missions, the Roadmap cites the transport of supplies to forward areas, the resupply of sea-based assets and the support of special operations forces as especially well-suited to unmanned systems.

One building-block for such drones was to be Darpa's Transformer (TX) programme, unveiled in 2009. The TX was to be a four-seat, lightly armoured, terrain-independent transport, a wheeled vehicle that could fly when necessary, with transit speeds up to 370 km/hr. It was to be highly automated, so that no pilot's licence would be required for the operator. However, service interest was evidently less than enthusiastic.

In 2013 Darpa replaced the TX with the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (Ares), a utility/transport drone that could carry a series of payload modules, for troops or cargo up to 1,360 kg, casualty extraction, or ISR missions. Another module is to be a light tactical ground vehicle. Ares will achieve vtol through the use of two tilting ducted fans, requiring landing zones only half the size of those needed by equivalent helicopters (although at the cost of greater ground erosion). Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works has been chosen as the lead design and systems integration contractor for Ares, working with Piasecld Aircraft.

Several other experimental programmes are being pursued to ensure the continuation of America's full-spectrum dominance in drones.

The US Naval Research Laboratory recently launched from a torpedo tube on a submerged submarine (USS Providence, SSN -719) its XFC (Experimental Fuel Cell) drone, which flew a sortie of several hours duration, streaming back live video.

Another potentially significant maritime drone development is Darpa's Tern (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node) programme, aimed at achieving Predator-like ISR performance from 25,400-tonne LCS-2 class ships. Having awarded preliminary contracts to AeroVironment, Aurora Flight Sciences, Carter Aviation Technologies, Maritime Applied Physics, and Northrop Grumman in late 2013, Darpa envisions full-scale demonstrations in 2017.

In 2013 Darpa awarded four 22-month Phase One contracts for its Vtol X-Plane programme to launch a new type (or types) of high-performance vtol aircraft. The contracts went to Sikorsky (teamed with Lockheed Martin) for its Unmanned Rotor Blown Wing, to Aurora Flight Sciences for LightningStrike, Boeing for its Phantom Swift, and Karem Aircraft for a project of which no details are currently available.

This $ 130 million, 52-month Vtol X-Plane programme aims to achieve flight demonstrations around early 2018 with an air vehicle capable of cruising at over 555 km/hr, with a payload representing over 40% of its 4,500-5,443 kg gross weight. It seems likely that the demonstrators will be unmanned, although (if successful) they may lead to both manned and unmanned production aircraft.

Another ground-breaking Boeing project is the long-endurance Phantom Eye, which has a 45.7-metre wingspan and two 2.3-litre triple-turbocharged Ford engines burning liquid hydrogen, which is contained in two spherical tanks of 2.44-metre diameter. The current 4,516 kg demonstrator version was designed to stay aloft for four days at 65,000 ft. Flight tests began in June 2012.

An alternative approach to persistent [SR is represented by the 5,080-kg Aurora Flight Sciences Orion, which uses two Austro Engines AE300 turbo-diesels. The Orion was designed to achieve a maximum endurance of 120 hours (five days) at 20,000 ft with a 454 kg payload, reducing to 24 hours at 6,500 km radius.

The Orion was selected by the US Air Force for its Medium Altitude Global ISR and Communications (Magic) Jctd programme, which is sponsored by Centcom. It cruises at 124-157 km/h r and has a "dash" speed of 222 km/hr. Ferry range is 24,000 km. It first flew on August 24, 2013. Orion has some strike potential, being able to carry a load of 450 kg under either wing.

The US armed forces have spent billions on little-publicised efforts to develop the use of small drones in Afghanistan. For example, the 1.0-kg Aurora Skate Gen-2, a slab-like air vehicle with two articulated power units in the leading edges, has been deployed for small unit and fob (forward operating base) force protection missions, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

In 2013 Navair (Naval Air Systems Command) placed a $31.3 million contract with Nasc (Navmar Applied Sciences) to supply 24118-kg TigerShark drones and four ground control stations for use in its 'Copperhead' anti-FED programme in Afghanistan. Other such programmes are 'Speckles', based on the 20-kg Sensitel Silver Fox, 'Sand Dragon', using the 100-kg Northrop Grumman Bat-12, 'Hawkeye, using the 200-kg Schiebel S-100, and 'Sentinel Hawk', based on the 61-kg Boeing/Insitu RQ-21 Integrator. All these efforts are coordinated by the Jieddo (Joint IED-Defeat Organisation).

The Roadmap foresees developments in manned-unmanned system teaming (MUM-T)as allowing effective drone operations at greater standoff distances. Although currently prohibited by policy, it foresees unmanned systems being employed within the 2013-2038 timeframe in casevac, the recovery of human remains and in urban rescue operations. Projected mission areas for American drones also include air-to-air combat, electronic warfare and Sead missions. The report envisions drones being used to place ground sensors accurately, and to deploy "attack bots" to track personnel.

The application of weaponry to smaller drones will expand with the availability of more lightweight missiles, such as the E0-guided 2.5-kg Spike developed by the US Naval Air Warfare Center in cooperation with DRS Technologies, and the laser-homing 13-kg IAI Lahat. Other weapons in the 13-15 kg category include the BAE Systems APKWS and the Lockheed Martin Dagr, guided derivatives of the General Dynamics Hydra-70 rocket projectile. At the lower end of the spectrum, the AeroVironment Switchblade is a tube-launched, electro-optically guided, electrically powered one-kilogram loitering munition with an endurance of up to 40 minutes.

Further in the future, warheads will be made smaller and more powerful through the use of nanoparticles, which have proportionally more surface area and thus increased contact with other chemicals in the explosive. The results are a faster reaction rate and a more powerful detonation. The US Air Force is exploring techniques to allow increased amounts of nano-alum inium powder in explosive (or propellent) 111 x es, using a solvent.


The Department of Defense is seriously interested in attack drones like those pioneered by Israeli with the Harpy. Earlier known as "suppression of air defence" weapons (or Sead weapons), they are now renamed "air domination systems" by the Pentagon. To this category belonged the Raytheon vertically launched Nlos-LS Pam (Non-Line-Of-Sight Launch System, Precision Attack Missile), but the 4() km range weapon programme was terminated after development was completed in late 2010.

However, it appears from the Roadmap that the Pam is to be reborn and deployed by the US Army for use against stationary and moving armoured vehicles. The US Navy plans to use the Pam on the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) and the USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) to defeat threats such as small attack craft.

The US Air Force is considering various air domination concepts, including the 45-kg (class) AFRL/Lockheed Martin Locaas (Low-Cost Autonomous Attack System), a very successful technology demonstration programme

that was completed in 2005. The concept has recently been revised to include man-in-the-loop functionality, to allow in-flight retargeting and the aborting of attacks.

A further development would see four powered Locaas carried by a "mothership" designated Smacm (Surveilling Miniature Attack Cruise Missile). Powered by a turbojet, the Lockheed Martin Smacm is designed to be carried internally on existing stealth fighters and future Ucavs. It would provide targeting, surveillance and communications support at a radius of over 450 km.

Turning to drone propulsion, the Roadmap cites as mid-term goals the introduction of geared turbofans, variable-cycle engines, and hybrid turbo-electrical power. In the longer term, planned advances include fuel cells using non-hydrocarbon fuels.

Significant technological advances are expected to include the introduction of optical communications, especially in the context of high-flying drones. This will offer far greater bandwidth and improved anti-jam performance, although the narrow beamwidth of such systems causes problems in maintaining pointing accuracy. A recent Darpa programme has successfully demonstrated hybrid optical/radio-frequency air-to-air links at ranges in excess of 200 km.


On navigation, considerable efforts are being made to improve GPS, make it available to more platforms, minimise susceptibility to jamming, and develop alternatives to be used in the presence of jamming. The M-code military upgraded GPS will be available soon, and is required for all new US-DoD acquisitions, starting M FY17.

Darpa's PINS (Precision Inertial Navigation System) project uses an ultra-cold atom interferometer to provide jam-proof, near-GPS accuracy for future military platforms. Testing on a manned aircraft was due to start in 2013. The High Dynamic Range Atom (HiDRA) programme seeks to develop an inertial measuring unit with a drift rate of only 20 metres/hour in a highly mobile vehicle.

Achieving greater autonomy in unmanned systems has been assigned high priority, being viewed as "critical to future conflicts that will be fought and won with technology". Two important aspects of this are autonomous deck operations for future US Navy drones, and airborne sense-and-avoid (SAA) systems, which will require new sensors.

The main factors in winning approval for any unmanned DoD to transit America's NAS (National Airspace System) are the drone's airworthiness and the use of an SAA system that complies with civil requirements.

In the case of the US Army's General Atomics MQ-1C Grey Eagle, the aircraft is already certified to a standard defined by the Army's own TAA (Technical Airworthiness Authority), but the cost of certification to manned aircraft standards was judged prohibitively expensive. Each transit of NAS thus requires a Certificate or Waiver of Authorization, and airspace monitoring by GBSAA (Ground-Based Sense-And-Avoid) radar for potentially conflicting air traffic.

It may be noted that since July 2013 General Atomics has been flying an Improved Grey Eagle with 50% improvements in payload and fuel capacity Coupled with the introduction of a 153-kW Lycoming DEL-120 engine in place of the 123-kW Centurion 1.7, this new version offers unarmed missions in excess of 50 hours.


America has undoubtedly established a massive global lead across the complete drone spectrum. If Russia (which currently has only around 500 military drones) envies America's lead, consolation should be taken from the fact that this lead was achieved inefficiently and at enormous cost. Some of the key products were basically what the manufacturers wanted to produce, hastily procured outside the carefully choreographed acquisition process that has been one of the Pentagon's major contributions to post-war aerospace development. Many of these drones are highly scenario-dependent, some would say obsolete.

In addition, there has long been criticism of duplication of efforts in America. A recent report claims that the four American armed services are currently developing 15 different air vehicle platforms and 42 different sensor payloads.

A few Soviet military drones were developed, notably the supersonic, expendable 35,600-kg Tupolev Tu -123 Yastreb, introduced in 1964. This was followed by the much smaller, subsonic 6,215-kg Tu-141 Strizh and the 1,230-kg Tupolev Tu-143 Reis, of which 950 were produced, to serve from 1976. The improved Tu-243 Reis-D followed in the late 1980s. Operators reportedly include North Korea. The 138-kg Yakovlev Pchela-1 (Bee-1) was the drone element of the tactical ISR Stroi-P system, which was introduced by the Russian Army in 1995, and was used in the first Chechen war.

Drone systems came low on Russian priorities, but the 70-kg Vega/Luch 9M62 drone, the air element of the 1K133 Tipchak system (developed to replace the Pchela/Stroi-P) was used on a small scale in the 2008 conflict with Georgia. The Tipchak suffered several losses and serious technical problems. Georgia enjoyed better situational coverage, primarily due to the use of 550-kg Elbit Systems Hermes 450s.

Russia unsuccessfully tried to acquire the 1,250-kg IAI Heron I, a failure probably due to American pressure on Israel. However, in April 2009 (allegedly after Russia gave Israel assurances that it would not sell S-300 air models of three new designs, the 300-kg Ka-135, the 600-kg Ka-175 Korshun, and the 3,000-kg Albatros. All use contra-rotating rotors, and are due to fly by 2017.

In order to improve drone development, Russia launched programmes in three weight categories in 2011: the one-tonne Inok-hodets, the 4.5-tonne Altius-M, and the 15-tonne Okhotnik. These projects are reportedly led by Transas, Sokol and United Aircraft (UAC) respectively.

The most interesting is the "sixth--generation" Okhotnik (Hunter), for which $600 million is earmarked, and which is expected to involve Sukhoi and RAC-MiG (and possibly Tupolev). It may benefit from earlier design work on the ten-tonne RAG-MiG Skat (Ray), a mockup of which was unveiled in 2007.

The 4.5-tonne (class) Altius-M is the subject of a $ 35 million contract, and is apparently intended to rival the turboprop General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. To reduce attrition it will have two engines, 373-kW RED Aircraft A03 diesels. The one-tonne I nokhodets (Orion), for which a $ 29 million contract was signed in 2011, will be broadly equivalent to the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. Whereas the two larger designs are long-term research and development projects, this last programme is expected to lead to production by 2018.

The Russian defence minister has recently stated that Roubles 370 billion ($ 9.0 billion) will be spent on acquiring new drones by 2020.


For many years China's dominant drone entity was the Northwestern Polytechnic University (NWPU) UAV Institute, its products marketed through the ASN Technology Group. It has produced over 40 drone designs in four production series, and has so far delivered more than 1,500 air vehicles and fulfilled over 90% of the domestic market. For so-called tactical drones, the army generally uses rocket-boosted launches from truck-mounted rails and recovery by parachute.

The ground forces use several variants of the truck-launched ASN-206, including the ASN-207 (identified by its mushroom-shaped dorsal antenna housing) and the ASN-215. The group's more recent developments include the 320-kg ASN-209 Silver Eagle, which entered Navy service in 2011, and is reportedly being licence-built in Egypt, and the 800-kg ASN-229A.

Another leader was the Beihang University UAV Institute (originally Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, BUAA), which began by reverse-engineering a long-span (9.75-metre) Ryan AQM -34N (Model 147H) Firebee, one of several lost by the US Air Force over Vietnam between 1967 and 1971. The resulting 1,135-kg WZ-5 entered service with the PLA in 1981, and was exported as the CH-1.

China intensified its drones efforts after 1999, following their use by several Nato forces in operations over Kosovo and Serbia. Later considerations must have included the fact that the West was developing Ucavs, and that drones offered China a credible means to target US Navy aircraft carriers for cruise and ballistic missiles.

The Beihang concern has more recently produced the I,200-kg BZK-005 Male drone, using a twin-boom pusher propeller configuration. The Predator/Heron-class BZK-005 is believed to be in service with the PLA Navy. In September 2013 Japan's fighters shadowed a BZK-005 close to Okinawa.

One Chinese drone that resembles the Predator series is the 1,150-kg AVIC/Chengdu Yi Long/Wing Loong or defence systems to Iran) a contract was signed by Rosoboronexport and IAI, covering the purchase of twelve 5.6-kg Bird Eye 400s and four 426-kg Searcher IIs. A second contract (probably for similar quantities) was signed later in the year, bringing the total value to over $ 100 million.

It has been reported that Russia abandoned plans also to buy the 160-kg 1-View Mk150, much as Australia dropped its plan to adopt the 250-kg I-View Mk250 in 2008. The 1-View series is no longer marketed, its role being taken over by later projects, such as the 12.0-kg mini-Panther tilt-rotor vtol drone, which can be operated from locations much closer to the action.

In 2010 a $ 400 million contract was signed by Oboronprom (of which Russian Helicopters is a subsidiary) and IAI, granting the former rights to assemble the Bird Eye 400 and Searcher II at the Urals Works of Civil Aviation (UWCA) in Yekaterinburg. In 2011 the Russian MoD placed an order with UWCA, including around $ 40 million for the production of 27 Bird Eye 400s under the name 'Zastavi and $ 270 million for ten Searcher Hs under the name Torpost: (These numbers presumably refer to complete systems).

Having purchased a production licence, it seems likely that the original intention was for the Zastava to be produced not only for the Russian Army but also for the Airborne Forces (VDV), the Federal Security Service (FSB), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS).


In 2010 the Russian Army ran a series of trials to compare domestic drones in the 'mini' (25 km) and short-range (100 km) classes. The original twelve companies provided 22 different designs which for the second phase were reduced to eight drones: the 7.0-kg Orlan-3M and 14.0-kg Orlan-10 from Vega/STC, the 5.3-kg T23 Eleron-3 and 15.5-kg Ti OE Eleron-10 from Enics, the Izh mash Navodchik-2, and the 2.5-kg Zala 421-08 Strekoza and 4.5-kg Zala 421-04M Lastochka.

In late 2013 the Russian ministry of defence placed a $ 3.0 million order with Enics in Kazan for the delivery of 17 systems with 34 Eleron-3SV air vehicles. This followed a 2012 order for the 250-kg Vega/Luch Korsar (Corsair), which evidently satisfies the 100 km requirement. In an intermediate category, Enics is developing the 68-kg T92M, but this has not yet been ordered.

In 2013 the Russian Air Force Academy at Voronezh began receiving the 18-kg Orlan-10 from Vega's Special Technology Centre in St Petersburg. Deliveries of the Forpost to the Academy are due to begin this year.

Other local drones ordered by Russia are believed to include the Zala Aero 421-04M, which is used by the MVD, as is the 10.0-kg Zala 421-16E. Kazakhstan is known to operate the 3.0-kg Irkut-2M and 8.5-kg Irlcut-10. The latter is built under licence in Belarus.

The VDV has been testing the 1.3-kg T-4 produced by the Omsk-based Popov Radio Factory. The 90-kg Transas Dozor-4 has been heavily marketed to the Border Guard Service of the FSB. Gorizont in Rostov-on-Don has a licence to assemble the Schiebel S100 drone helicopter, aiming to sell it to the Border Guards, the MChS and the MVD. The Gorizont Air S-100 was used alongside the Zala 421 to ensure security for the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi.

Kamov, now part of Russian Helicopters, has been Russia's leader in drone helicopters, beginning with the private-ventured 250-kg Ka-37, which first flew in 1993 and led to the 280-kg Ka-137 of 1998. In 2010 Russian Helicopters exhibited Pterodactyl-1, which first flew in 2007 and was cleared for export in 2009. It has reportedly been sold to five nations, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan. China has agreed to sell armed drones to Pakistan, which the United States has refused to do.

The Wing Loong was preceded by the canard-configuration 630-kg CH-3, developed by the CASC (China Aerospace Science 8c Technology Corp) Eleventh Academy, aka the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA). The CH-3 flew in 2004 and (like the Wing Loong) has two weapon pylons.

The CAAA also developed the 1,350-kg CH-4 or Sky Saker, which also follows the Predator layout, but has four weapon pylons. The CH-4 is reportedly in service with the PLA and is being evaluated by Algeria, where two have crashed.

Later products in the CH-series include the 110-kg CH-91, which has a twin-boom configuration with inverted vee-tail, the 300-kg CH-92 and the 18-kg CH-803. The tube-launched 9.0-kg CH-901 is intended for special forces, and can be used either for reconnaissance or as a winged grenade. It has a one-piece swing-wing, and the tail surfaces fold forward into the body.

Turning to jet-powered drones of broadly Global Hawk configuration, the 1,700-kg AVIC/Guizhou WZ-2000 first flew at the end of 2003. The Chengdu Sky Wing Three is thought to be in the seven-tonne class, and was seen making taxying trials in 2008. It is expected to lead to lead to a larger drone named Long Haul Eagle, in the 14-tonne category.

The China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp (CASIC) has developed through its Third Academy the HW-100 Sparrow Hawk, HW-200 Ascender and HW-300 Blade drones. Its latest known project is the HW-600 Sky Eagle, which in attack version becomes the WJ-600. The Third Academy specialises in cruise missiles, so it is no surprise that the HW-600 looks like a Boeing AGM-86 Alcm with a fixed wing. In an animation shown at Zhuhai in 2010, this truck-launched WJ-600 is shown launching missiles at ground vehicles and providing targeting of ships for artillery rockets and cruise missiles.

Aiming to achieve extreme endurance/range with an ISR drone, Chengdu and Guizhou have adopted a tandem joined-wing arrangement for the 7,500-kg Xiang Long (Flying Lizard), which had its maiden flight in 2009.

At the top of the technology scale, the Lijian (Sharp Sword) is a stealthy combat drone reportedly designed by Shenyang and built by Hongdu, and reminiscent of the X-47B. It is evidently being developed for both the PLA Air Force and Navy, primarily to ensure aerial access to the South China Sea. First flight took place in November 2013. A promotional animation illustrates use from an aircraft carrier.

In 1994 China imported a batch of 135-kg IAI Harpy truck-launched anti-radiation loiter-attack drones in a $ 55 million deal, and more recently developed its own versions with different seekers. China is also believed to have purchased one Vulture artillery support system from ATE in South Africa. Photographic evidence supports reports that 18 200-kg Schiebel S-100 drone helicopters were purchased in 2010 for use by the PLA Navy. In early 2014 CybAero announced a Euro 5.5 million sale to China of 180-kg Apid-60s for use from ships.


Despite Yamaha Motor's commercial success with the crop-spraying 67-kg R50 and 94-kg Rmax helicopters (the latter being deployed with the JGSDF to Iraq in 2005 and Afghanistan in 2007), Japan has done relatively little to develop its own military drones. However, as seen earlier, the Rmax has been used by Northrop Grumman as the base for the development of the R-Bat observation drone.

The US Air Force is to deploy two 14.6-tonne Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawks to Misawa AB in northern Japan from May 2014, and the JASDF hopes to operate one of these aircraft jointly with that service in 2015. Japan's FY14-18 mid-term defence programme includes funding for the purchase of three Global Hawks, which will be used primarily to monitor Chinese maritime activities around the disputed islands. They will also have special infrared sensors to detect ballistic missile launches. (In February 2014 Australia's defence minister recommended the purchase of seven RQ-4Cs).

South Korea plans to sign a contract for four Global Hawk Block 30s before the end of this year. The 65-kg Elbit Skylark II and 1AI Harpy anti-radiation attack drone have already been imported.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is responsible for most in-country drone developments, notably the corps-level 290-kg RQ-101 Night Intruder 300, which entered service with the RoK Army in 2002 (following use of a small number of TAT Searchers). KAI has recently been selected to develop a replacement for the RQ-101, for service from around 2020. It will be equipped with a US-supplied Airborne Weapon Surveillance System (AWSS) with an infrared seeker to detect artillery rocket launches.

Another KAI project is the 25-kg Devil Killer loiter-attack drone, which first flew in 2011. In 2010 Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) was awarded a $ 30 million contract to develop the KUS-11 division-level drone.

Drone developments in Taiwan are mainly performed by the Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology (CSIST), whose Chung Shyang II tactical air vehicle is thought to have entered service around 2011. Some 32 air vehicles in eight systems currently equip three battalions of the Republic of China (RoC) Army. CSIST has also developed the hand-launched 2.1-kg Cardinal II.


In 2012 Indonesia bought four 500-kg IAI Searcher IIs, which are used primarily to counter piracy in the Malacca Strait. In April 2013 plans were announced for the local development of the 120-kg Wulung drone for the Indonesia Air Force, to be designed by the Agency for the Assessment & Application of Technology (BPPT) and built by Indonesian Aerospace.

In 2007 Malaysia's Composites Technology Research Malaysia (CTRM). Ikramatic Systems and Systems Consultancy Services established a joint venture named Unmanned Systems Technology (UST). The UST website lists its products as the 200-kg Aludra of twin-boom pusher configuration, the 2.1-kg Aludra SR-08 flying wing, and the Intisar 400 helicopter, which is probably in the 100-kg class.

The 500-kg Yabhon Aludra, employing a canard configuration, is a joint development by UST and Abu Dhabi's Adcom Systems. Two are being used, alongside two Aludra Mlas and two Boeingansitu ScanEagles, on behalf of the Royal Malaysian Air Force in contractor-operated ISR missions over the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszon).

Reports in 2013 indicated that Malaysia is considering collaborating with Pakistan on the development of a long-range/endurance drone.

The Philippines Army, in co-operation with the Obi Mapua company, developed the 14-kg Assunta. However, plans to use this drone were evidently dropped in favour of acquiring two 180-kg Emit Aviation Blue Horizon IIs, built under licence by Singapore Technologies Aerospace (STA).

In late 2013 the Philippine Army announced that its counter-insurgency operations had employed two types of low-cost drone, the $ 6,700 Knight Falcon and the $3,400 Raptor, both developed by its Research and Development Command from the Skywalker RC model produced by the Hong Kong-based company of that name.

Beginning in 2002 the Philippine Army has received ISR information from American operated drones, notably the General Atomics 520-kg Gnat 750 and 1,020--kg Predator-A used by the CIA, and the 5.9-kg Aerovironment Puma, the 20-kg Sensitel Silver Fox and 18-kg Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle flown by the US military. Predator missions in the Philippines included an. unsuccessful Hellfire strike in 2006 against Indonesian terrorist Umar Patek, who was later convicted of the 2002 Bali bombing.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) began receiving 40 IAI Searchers in 1994, to replace the 159-kg TAT Scout, of which Singapore had received 60. The Searcher equipped No 119 Sqn at Murai Camp from 1998, but in 2012 the unit began converting to the 1,150-kg IA! Heron!. The other operational RSAF drone unit is No 116 Sqn at Tengah, which introduced the 550-kg Elbit Hermes 450 in 2007.

Singapore's 5.0-kg Skyblade III was jointly developed by ST Aerospace, DSO National Laboratories, DSTA and the RS Army, with which it is in service. Later ST Aerospace projects include the 70-kg Skyblade IV, which entered RS Army service in 2012. The 9.1-kg Skyblade 360 uses fuel cell technology to achieve an endurance of six hours. The new 1.5-kg SkyViper drone helicopter is still undergoing trials. At the Singapore Airshow in February 2014 the company unveiled its quad-rotor Ustar-X and hex-rotor Ustar-Y.

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is believed to have purchased in late 2010 a 210-kg Aeronautics Aerostar system for evaluation against the 220-kg G- Star, developed from the 150-kg Innocon Mini-Falcon II by the Thai-based G-Force Composites. The Aerostar appears to have won, as around 20 further drones were purchased in 2012. The RTAF Academy has a small number of 65-kg Sapura Cyber Eyes, purchased from Malaysia's Sapura Secured Technologies, which has its drone R&D performed by its CyberFlight subsidiary in Perth, Australia.

In 2010 the RTAF launched the Tigershark drone as an R&D programme. The Royal Thai Army, which earlier used four Searchers, has received twelve 1.9-kg AeroVironment RQ-11 Ravens.

Vietnam has so far lagged in the use of drones, although the Institute of Defence Technology did develop and test the M-100CT and M-400CT targets in 2004-2005. The Vietnam Academy of Science & Technology (Vast) produced five designs, ranging from 4.0 to 170 kg, and tested three of them in 2013. It now appears that Vietnam will buy the 100-kg Grif-1, which was developed by the JSC 558 Aircraft Repair Plant in Belarus, and first flew in February 2012.


India is a major user of Israeli drones, having received at least 108 IAI Searchers and 68 Heron Is, plus numerous Harpy and Harop loiter-attack weapons. The Searcher II has reportedly been licence-built in India since 2006. In late 2013 the purchase of 15 more Herons for $ 195 million was approved by Cabinet.

The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is the driving force behind drone development in India. Around 100 examples of its Lakshya target have been produced, but it appears that no more than twelve Nishant ISR drones have so far been built for the Indian Army. The Rustom series is intended to replace the Heron and serve as the basis for an attack drone. The substantially new Rustom II is due to fly around mid-2014.

Pakistan benefits from a number of small private companies that are active in the drone field. For example, Satuma has developed the medium-range 245-kg Flamingo, the tactical-range 145-kg Jasoos II (described as the country's drone workhorse), the short-range 40-kg Mukhbar and the 7.5-kg Stingray mini-drone.

Global Industrial and Defence Solutions (GIDS) has developed the 480-kg Shahpar, 200-kg Uqab, the Huma, and the 4.0-kg Scout. The Uqab is operated by the Pakistan Army and Navy, and has recently been joined by the Shahpar, which resembles China's CH-3. Another local development is the Burraq attack drone, by the state-owned National Engineering & Scientific Commission (Nescom).

Integrated Dynamics has developed several drone designs, including the Border Eagle, which has been exported to five countries, including Libya. The company's 0.8-kg Skycarn has been the subject of a ten-system order from the Pakistan Armed Forces.

In 2006 Pakistan ordered five 420-kg Selex ES Falco systems with 25 air vehicles, which led to licence production by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The Pakistan Army and Navy operate the 40-kg EMT Luna drone.

The Sri Lanka Air Force operates two IA1 Searcher II units, Nos 111 and 112 UAV Sqds. It earlier used the JAI Super Scout (from 1996) and Emit Blue Horizon II.


Israel has been a world leader in drone development for four decades, primarily due to the successes of IAI/Malat, which began manufacturing uninhabited aircraft in 1974. Israeli drones have accumulated over 1.1 million operational flight hours in more than 50 countries. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Instirtute, Israel was responsible for 41% of drones sold internationally in the first decade of this century.

The 1,250-kg Heron I (local designation 'Shoval') first flew in 1994. The Heron is operated by 21 countries, four of which have used it in Afghanistan. The Heron family has accumulated over 250,000 operational flight hours.

The latest version of the piston -engined Heron is the 1,452-kg Super Heron HF (Heavy Fuel). The first of two protypes is believed to have first flown in October 2013 (TAT being strangely reticent on this point) and was unveiled at Singapore in February 2014. Powered by a 149 kW Dieseljet Fiat engine, it has an endurance of 45 hours.

The Super Heron was exhibited with the TAT Mosp3000-HD EO/IR/laser turret and IAI/Elta EL/M-2055D (Downsized) Sar/Gmti radar. Also fuselage-mounted were the ELK-1894 Satcom, ELL-8385 ESM/Elint and ALK- 7065 3D Compact HF Comint systems. The booms carried multiple antennae for the ELK-7071 Comint/DF system, and a pod under the starboard wing housed a sensor for the automatic take-off and landing system.

The much heavier (4450-kg) turboprop-powered Heron TP or Titan' was first used in an Israeli Air Force strike against a convoy carrying Iranian arms through Sudan in 2009. It is competing with America's MQ-9 for orders from some major European nations.

Other IAI products include the 436-kg Searcher III. The Searcher has been used by 14 nations, including Spain and Singapore, which operated it in Afghanistan. The vtol tilt-rotor Panther series is available as the 65-kg Panther and 12.0-kg mini-Panther. At the lower end of the IAI range are the 5.6-kg Bird Eye 400 and 11.0-kg Bird Eye 650. Fuel cell power has been tested with the Panther and Bird Eye.

Elbit Systems drones have accumulated over 500,000 flight hours, largely due to the 550-kg Hermes 450, which is used by twelve countries and also provides the basis for the Thales Watchkeeper. The new 115-kg Hermes 90 first flew in 2009.

The 1180-kg Elbit Hermes 900 also had its maiden flight in 2009, and was selected in 2012 as the Israeli Air Force's next generation drone.

The Ha Avir has recently named it Kochav (Star). It is also used by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and one other country. Switzerland is due to choose between the Hermes 900 and Heron I by mid-2014. More than 50 examples of the Hermes family were built in 2013.

Elbit's smaller electrically powered drones include the 7.5-kg Skylark 1-LE. It is the IDF's battalion-level drone, but is also flown by over 20 services, including French special forces. The vehicle-launched 65-kg Skylark II has been selected as the IDF's brigade-level drone, and has been tested with fuel cell power.

The leader of the Aeronautics family is the 220-kg Aerostar, which has been purchased by 15 customers, and has accumulated over 130,000 flight hours. The company's Orbiter series is operated by 20 services, and consists of the 7.0-kg Orbiter-I, the 9.5-kg Orbiter-II (used by the Israeli Air Force and Navy and ordered by Finland) and the 20-kg Orbiter-III.

The 40-kg Aerolight is flown by the Israeli Air Force, the US Navy and others. The 720-kg Picador is a drone version of Belgium's Dynali H2S two-seat kit helicopter. It first flew in 2010 and is aimed at operations from Israel's corvettes.

BlueBird Aero Systems has developed the hand-launched 1.5-kg MicroB, the 9,0-kg SpyLite, which is used by the Israeli Defence Force and others (including the Chilean Army), and the 11.0-kg WanderB, which is operated from runways. In 2013 the company announced the 24-kg ThunderB, with an endurance of 20 hours.

BlueBird has the distinction of producing the first operational fuel cell-powered mini-drone, the 10.0-kg Boomerang, which has been purchased by the Ethiopean Army.

Innocon produces the 3.5-kg Spider, the joined-wing 6.0-kg MicroFalcon-LP and 10.0-kg MicroFalcon-LE, the 90-kg MiniFalcon I and 150-kg MiniFalcon II, and the 800-kg Falcon Eye, which is derived from a manned aircraft.


Iran's principal drone developer appears to be Qods Aeronautics Industries (QAI), a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), although a series of operator-training and target drones have been produced by Iran Aircraft Manufacturing (Hesa), which is part of Iran Aerospace Industries Organisation (IA10).

The QAI Mohajer (Migrant)-1 ISR drone flew in 1981 and performed 619 sorties in the war with Iraq, probably with a fixed camera, although it could be turned into a loiter-attack drone with RPG-7 warheads. Over 200 improved 85-kg Mohajer-2s were built. The Mohajer-3 or Dorna provided increased range/endurance, and further improvements came with the 175-kg Mohajer-4 or Hodhod. This is used by the Iranian Army and IRGC, was sold to Hezbollah, Sudan and Syria, and is licence-built in Venezuela under the name Arpia.

The lighter (83-kg) canard-configuration QAI Abalil (Swallow) is used by Iran, Sudan and Hezbollah. Three were shot down over Israel in 2006, one over Iraq (by the US Air Force) in 2009, and one over Sudan (by rebels) in 2012.

The QAI Shahed (Witness) -129 looks like the Thales Watchkeeper, has an endurance of 24 hours, and is presumably in the 1,000-kg class. It has two weapon pylons, and reportedly entered series production in 2013. However, the largest Iranian drone is the LAIO Fotros, which was unveiled in late 2013. It has two weapon pylons and an endurance of 30 hours.

There appear to be several Iranian loiter-attack drones, including the Riad-85, which entered production in 2013, the twin-engined Sarir (Throne), and the Toophan-2, a Harpy lookalike.

New Iranian designs revealed in 2013 included the Yasir, which appears to be a ScanEagle copy with twin booms and an inverted-vee tail added. Iran's only jet-powered drone is the 900-kg Hesa Karrar (Striker), which can carry one 200 kg or two 113 kg bombs.


The United Arab Emirates' Adcom Systems first produced a series of targets, which were sold to several countries, including Russia, and then switched to ISR drones.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Instirtute, Israel was responsible for 41% of drones sold internationally in the first decade of this century.

These were initially conventional designs, but Adcom became obsessed with high aspect ratio tandem wings, mounted on a serpentine fuselage. Whether this really achieves positive interference between the two wings is something that only Adcom knows. What is clear is that the release of loads from either wing will produce a longitudinal shift in centre of gravity.

Adcom has considered various types of powerplant for this attention-catching drone series. At Dubai last year the company presented a mockup of its ten-tonne Global Yabhon project, with two unspecified turbofan engines and a wide range of weapons. There may be more sales interest (allegedly from Russia and Algeria) in the preceding twin piston-engined, 1,500-kg United 40 Block 5 variant, which has already flown and is claimed to offer the remarkable endurance of 100 hours.


Few European drones have been good enough to achieve international sales, some exceptions being Austria's 200-kg Schiebel Camcopter S-100, France's 250-kg Sagem Sperwer, Germany's 40-kg EMT Luna, Italy's

Future possibilities include France's 1,050-kg Sagem Patroller (mentioned and illustrated at the beginning of this Compendium), Italy's 6,145-kg Piaggio Aero P.1HH Hammerhead, Spain's 200-kg Indra Pelicano (developed from the Apid 60), and Sweden's 230-kg Saab Skeldar-200. The Skeldar has actually taken the world by surprise by chalking up its first order with an international sale, to the Spanish navy to be precise. It will be interesting to see how the Piaggio Avanti will fare as a drone due to the aircraft's twin-wing configuration (which is not canard!) in which the nose wing is designed to stall before the rear one, forcing the aircraft to pitch down automatically to recover speed before a full stall occurs.

However, it is painfully clear that Europe has so far been limiting itself to a tiny fraction of the global drone market, with the possible exception of the naval rotary-wing segment. For years there have been government statements of intent regarding international co-operation on drones, but they have not been backed by significant funding.

One obvious gap in the market is for a Male drone designed to achieve low attrition, with two engines, redundant systems, antiicing provisions, and a tail configuration that allows for a nose-high attitude in proximity to the runway.

In 2010 there was an Anglo-French agreement in principle to develop a Male drone, the Telemos, which was generally seen as a development of the twin-turboprop BAE Systems Mantis that first flew in late 2009. However, the Telemos would have competed with the twin-jet Eads Talarion, a situation that revived memories of other (Typhoon-Rafale) mutually damaging duplications. Funding was consequently minimal.

In December 2013 all 28 nations of the European Union signed an agreement to develop an unarmed ISR Male drone that could enter service around 2022. If properly funded and not bogged down in bureaucracy, this may be worthwhile, although the end-product could face competition from any number of countries. This is motor-glider territory, not rocket science.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, on the other hand, development of Ucavs does require a high level of technology and funding. The Dassault-led seven-tonne Neuron first flew on December 1, 2012, under a six-nation (France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), [euro]535 million programme, for which France is paying half. The eight-tonne BAE Systemsled Taranis, developed under a British national programme jointly funded by British industry and Whitehall, flew on August 10, 2013. At that point [pounds sterling]185 million had been spent. The Taranis is intended to lay the foundations for a Ucav that could be available beyond 2030 as a potential Typhoon replacement.

The Franco-British summit meeting in January 2014 resulted in a 'Declaration on Security and Defence', which included a statement on a joint Future Combat Air System (FCAS). This followed 15-month Preparation Phase studies by six industry partners: Dassault Aviation, BAE Systems, Thales France, Selex ES, Rolls-Royce and Safran. The statement announced a two-year [pounds sterling]120 million Feasibility Phase, to be complemented by national work valued at GBP 40 million on either side, to develop the necessary concepts and technologies.

The associated Memorandum of Understanding on the next FCAS phase was to be signed at the 2014 Farnborough International Airshow. As a result, the two nations "will be ideally placed to decide by 2016 whether to collaborate on a demonstration and manufacturing phases". In other words, times are hard and there is no urgency for a Ucav, but Europe cannot afford to lose existing technical teams.

Europe would be well advised to develop hi-tech drones, since several low-cost countries want to establish a foothold in the aerospace business, and view low-tech drones as an easy way in, with excellent sales prospects. Brazil and South Korea have proved that major aerospace industries can be created from scratch, and countries such as Thailand and Vietnam want to follow their lead.

While major European powers are struggling to retain some semblance of aerospace capability, Turkey is slowly emerging as a possible force in the drone business. In late 2010 Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) performed the maiden flight of its 1,500-kg Anka Male drone, which in Block A form offers an endurance of 18 hours with an Aselsan Aselflir-300T EO/IR turret. The Block B version will add satcom facilities. If Turkish Engine Industries can increase the power of its Thielert Centurion 2.0 engine, Anka may later be equipped with an Aselsan synthetic aperture radar. TEl has also partnered with GE Aviation in developing a new engine for the Anka.

In the longer term TAI hopes to develop a larger, turboprop-powered, armed derivative of the Anka, but this probably depends on American approval for supply of the engine. The existing aircraft would be restricted to Lightweight weapons such as the Roketsan Cirit laser-homing 70 mm rocket and its projected 23-kg Smart Micro-Munition. In July 2012 it was announced that TAI had started design work on an armed derivative named the Anka +A.

In late 2012 it was reported that Egypt, unable to acquire Predators, had ordered ten Anka systems, but this report appears to be premature. In October 2013 Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defence Industries announced that his country had awarded TAI a contract for ten Anka systems, to be delivered between 2016 and 2018. However, the latest Anka release from TAI states only that negotiations are in progress over the initial series production of ten systems for the Turkish Air Force. TAI has also developed two target drones: the 70-kg Turna and jet-powered Simsek.

Turkey's Baykar Makina has developed two mini-drones: the 4.5-kg Goezcu and the Bayraktar Mini-UAS, of which the Turkish Army has reportedly procured 200, and which is the subject of a ten-system $ 25 million order from Qatar. Its other products include the Bayraktar Tactical UAS and the Malazgirt drone helicopter. Vestel Savunma Sanayi has developed the 500-kg Karayel, the 85-kg Bora and the 4.1-kg Efe.

Caption: Next test series on the X47-B's plate include night carrier operations and in-flight refuelling, with actual fuel transfer. (Northrop Grumman)

Caption; If ever a picture ever illustrated the notion of man-machine interfacing in a military environment this must be the one: the man in yellow shirt on the left is actually hand-signalling and "talking" to the aircraft. As by miracle, the aircraft obeys, but only thanks to the man in green who observes the instructions as if he were inside the aircraft, mirror figuring (of course) the inputs in his remote control unit. (Northrop Grumman)

Caption: The US Navy plans a technology demonstration programme for a stealthy Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike aircraft, possibly like this Lockheed Martin project. (Lockheed Martin).

Caption: General Atomics' contender for the US Navy Uclass is the stealthy Avenger, of which three prototypes have flown. This example has the stretched fuselage introduced with the second. A fourth, for the US Air Force, was to fly in early 2014. (General Atomics)

Caption: The renowned Skunk Works, working with Piasecki Aircraft; is leading Darpa's Ares project, aimed at providing terrain-independent supplies for sea-based assets, forward areas and special forces. (Lockheed Martin).

Caption: The US Navy seeks the ability to launch an ISR drone from a submerged submarine. In late 2013 this XFC (Experimental Fuel Cell) air vehicle developed by NRL was launched from the USS Providence, SSN-7 7 9. (US Naval Research Laboratory).

Caption: The Vtol X-Plane programme is Darpa's attempt to bridge the gap between helicopters and fixed-wing turboprops. This tail-sitting Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin project, designated Unmanned Rotor Blown Wing, is one of four shortlisted projects. (Sikorsky).

Caption: In the quest for endurance measured in days, one of the leaders is the Aurora Orion, powered by Austro Engines turbo-diesels, and designed to remain five days at 20,000 ft. (Aurora Flight Sciences).

Caption: One of several mini-drones successfully tested in Afghanistan, the innovative Aurora Skate was deployed under AFRL funding for use in force protection missions. (Aurora Flight Sciences).

Caption: Using the patented wingtip-grabs-cable recovery system of the manufacturer's well-proven ScanEagle, a Boeing/Insitu RQ-2 IA Integrator drone returns to LPD- 19, USS Mesa Verde. (US Navy).

Caption: Differing from the US Air Force MQ-1B Predator, the US Army MQ- 7C Grey Eagle introduces a heavy fuel engine, Sar/Gmti radar, communications relay facility, increased weapons and a tactical communications data link. (General Atomics).

If Russia (which currently has only around 500 military drones) envies America's lead, consolation should be taken from the fact that this lead was achieved inefficiently and at enormous cost.

Caption: This Irkut-10 tactical ISR drone is bungee-launched from a short rail and recovered by parachute. Ten systems have been sold to Kazakhstan, and the Irkut-10 is built under licence in Belarus. (Irkut).

Caption: One of the Russian leaders in the mini-drone category is the lzhevsk-based Zola Aero. Users of this Zola 421-16EM are believed to include the once-notorious MVD, the Ministry of Internal Affairs. (Zola Aero).

Caption: One of the products of Pakistan's Saturna (Surveillance And Target Unmanned Aircraft) is the 245-kg Flamingo, which has a 30 kg payload and a maximum endurance of eight hours. (Satuma).

Caption: China's canard-configuration 630-kg Casc Rainbow-3 or CH-3 ISR and attack drone is thought to have inspired Pakistan's smaller 480-kg GIDS Shah par (Armada/RB)

Caption: Drones designed by the Northwestern Polytechnic University (NWPU) have so far dominated the Chinese tactical drone market. One example is the 320-kg ASN-209 Silver Eagle, which serves with the PLA Navy. (Armada/RB).

Caption: The Zola 421-22 is able to continue missions if one of its eight motors fails. It was one of the systems used by Russia's MVO (Ministry of Internal Affairs) to ensure security for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. (Zola Aero).

Caption: A rare glimpse of future Russian drone helicopter developments was provided at UVS-Tech 2010 at Zhukovsky, which included mockups of the 700-kg Ka-175 Korshun (on the left), 300-kg Ka-135 (upper right) and 3,000-kg Albatros, all now classified. (Russian Helicopters).

Caption: The 220-kg Changhe Aircraft Industries (CAIC) U8E drone helicopter made its international debut at the 2013 Dubai Air Show, but its merits were placed in doubt by the PM Navy's use of the 200-kg Schiebel 5-700. (CATIC).

Caption: South Korea has developed a number of drones for military and civil purposes, including this 120-kg Sunwung Engineering Remo-H, which evidently serves as a target for the Republic of Korea Army. (US Air Force)

Caption: The General Atomics Predator XP is an unarmed version offered for export. In early 2013 it was announced that the United Arab Emirates had signed a 200 million contract for an unspecified number. (General Atomics).

Caption: The DRDO Nishant (Dawn) ISR drone first flew in 1995, but still appears to be only in very limited service with the Indian Army and Central Reserve Police Force. (Armada/Roy Braybrook)

Caption: The 40-kg Satuma Mukhbar (Urdu for Informer) short-range ISR drone is a scaled-down version of the same company's 745-kg lasoos II (Bravo II), which has been the workhorse of the Pakistan Air Force since 2004. (Satuma).

Caption: Developed and produced by the GIDS consortium, the 480-kg Shohpar-3 is equipped with the Aero Zumr- I (EP) multi-sensor turret. It has been in service with the Pakistan Air Force and Army since 2012. (GIDS)

Caption: One of the world's most successful drones, the IA! Heron serves with 21 nations, four of which have used it in Afghanistan, as exemplified by this Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. (Commonwealth of Australia).

Caption: The first of two IA! Super Heron HF (HeavyFuel) development aircraft (registration 4X-UMF) made its first flight in October 2013. The pod under the right wing serves the automatic takeoff and landing system. (1A1).

Caption: The IAI Super Heron made its public debut at the Singapore Airshow in February 2014, with a full range of equipment, including the VW Mosp 3000-HD sensor turret and EL/M-2055D Sar/Gmti radar. (IAI)

Caption: Although the IAI Heron TP is believed to have first flown around 2004 and been used operationally in 2009, the first Israeli Air Force unit (No 210 Sqn) was formally commissioned only in December 2010. (IAI)

Caption: Seen here at its Pik test range on the Golan heights, the Elbit Hermes 900 first flew in 2009, and appears to aimed at dominating the one-tonne ISR drone market category. It has already been selected by the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) and four international customers. (Armada/Eric H. Wass).

Caption: As evidenced by this view of a Hermes 900, Elbit has the flxibility to modify its aircraft to suit customer required installations, a maritime Selex Gabbiano radar in this instance. (Armada/Eric H. Bioss)

Caption: One of the most successful of so-called tactical drones is the 220-kg Aeronautics Aerostar, which was introduced in 2001, and has so far been ordered by 15 nations. (Aeronautics)

Caption: Even more widely adopted than the Aerostar, the Aeronautics Orbiter mini-drone series, marketed for both military and paramilitary use, is in use by 20 services. (Aeronautics)

Caption: There is a growing demand for a 'winged grenade' that can deliver its warhead accurately at much greater distance than the traditional lobbed variety. The Bluebird MicroB is a leading example. (BlueBird AeroSystems)

Although electrically powered, the 9.0-kg BlueBird Spylite has an endurance of up to four hours. Users include the Chilean Army and at least one African service. (Bluebird AeroSystems)

Caption: The 60-kg BlueBird Blue ye was designed not only for tasks such as delivering small urgent loads to forward bases, but also as the aerial component of a photogrammetric system, quickly providing accurate maps. (BlueBird AeroSystems).

Caption: The 150-kg Innocon MiniFakon II is normally rail-launched, equipped with either wheel of skids to suit a runway landing or recovery to a field or beach. Take-off and landing are automated. (Innocon)

Caption: Adcom Systems has produced a series of high-performance target drones, which appear to account for the firm's income. Russia is reputed to be one of its major customers. Seen here is the 570-kg Yabhon-X2000, which offers a cruise speed of up to 850 km/hr and an endurance of up to two hours. (Messe Berlin)

Caption: The 160-kg Adcom Systems Yabhon RX is a tactical ISR drone that is rail-launched and is designed to land automatically on two tandem-mounted retractable skids, although it is also equipped with an emergency parachute, (Adcom Systems)

Caption: One of the few twin-engined Male drones being marketed is the two-tonne, tandem-wing Adcom Systems Yabhon United 40 Block 5. It made its public debut at Dubai in 2013, and allegedly sparked interest in Algeria and Russia. (Adcom Systers)

Caption: Originally developed for the United Arab Emirates, which ordered 60 systems, the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 is one of Europe's few drone successes. The S-100 is here shown equipped with the Sage ESM and Elint system by Selex SE. (Schiebel)

Caption: The Selex ES Falco is used by Pakistan (which produces it under licence), Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In 2013 Selex received a three-year contract to provide support with the Falco for UN operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The fact that a number of nations that claim to have fully developed their own drones but still acquire western types offers proof that they are discovering that developing a drone is not as easy a task as it may appear. (Selex)

Caption: With much help from its Arabic peninsula investors, Pioggio has embarked on the development of a droned version of its P-180 Avanti business tandem-wing aircraft, seen here in full-size mock-up for at the 2014 Duvai Air Show. Its large diameter fuselage will enable it to accommodate a wealth of comint, elints and sigin ystems, and extra fuel. It would have an endurance of 16 hours with a 500-pound payload. Mission systems envisaged include a Selex Sky/star, a chin-mounted Flir Star fire 380HD, and a Seaspray 7300 E Radar. (seen here) (Armada/Eric H. Biass)

Caption: Selex is developing a larger version of its Falco, known as the Falco Eva (for Evolution). Essentially featuring a much larger wingspan and longer tail booms, its higher capacity and endurance would enable it to perform longer range intelligence missions, being equipped with a nose-mounted Selex Picosor synthetic aperture radar and electronic warfare sensors mounted in the wing tips. (Armada/Eric H. Blass)

Caption: Having assisted CybAero with the Aspid-55, Saab went on to develop the completely new 235-kg Skeldar-V200, which has a heavy fuel engine, giving an endurance of six hours with a 40 kg payload. (Saab/Jonas Tillgren)

Caption: Exports of Turkey's drones may well benefit from links with countries such as Egypt and Pakistan. One promising product is Baykar Makina's Bayraktar Mini-UAS, of which the Turkish Army has ordered 200. (Baykar Makina)

Caption: The leading European Ucav project is the six-nation Neuron programme, with Dassault Aviation as prime contractor. The Neuron flew in December 2072, and is pictured here on its first flight with landing gear retracted. (Dassault Aviation/M Brunet)
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Author:Biass, Eric H.; Braybrook, Roy
Publication:Armada International
Geographic Code:0PACI
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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