Israel investigates cargo potential of Heron
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is offering a combat cargo supply drone based on its Heron MK II MALE UAV (pictured).
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has identified an urgent operational need for unmanned delivery of ammunition or medical items to combat zones, and other armed forces are also expressing interest.
While industry works on developing heavier unmanned platforms, IAI has adapted its Heron design to supply small shipments of cargo.
According to Avi Bleser, VP of marketing and sales in the IAI military aircraft group (Malat), the company is in negotiations with potential customers that have identified the capabilities of the Heron MK II.
‘The new cargo delivery capability is part of the overall evaluation of the new version,’ Bleser told Shephard.
He explained that Heron MK II is designed to take off from and land on unpaved surfaces. Cargo can either be dropped in the combat zone using a special mechanism, or the UAV can land nearby to unload the shipment.
Israeli military sources indicated to Shephard that they are ‘well aware of the new capability’ offered by Heron MK II. The urgency with which the IDF is addressing the issue is shown by other trials involving the ducted-fan Cormorant VTOL UAV.
Meanwhile, the Heron TP MALE UAV is on track to obtain operational certification in Germany.
Five Heron TPs are already leased to the German defence ministry under a June 2018 leasing agreement between IAI and Airbus DS Airborne Solutions. They replace Heron 1 drones, which have been operated by the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Mali.
’The MALE Heron TP system will get military certification from the German Armed Forces' aviation authority in accordance with [NATO] STANAG 4671, allowing the system to be used around the world. This is supplemented by the integration of collision avoidance capabilities,’ said Bleser.
UAVs of all sizes and weights (from 150-20,000kg) certified under STANAG 4671 airworthiness requirements can operate in any NATO member state’s airspace.
Alain Dupiech, UAS media relations manager at Airbus, told Shephard that the German Heron TP will be certified according to NATO STANAG edition 3 ‘for various missions’.
In October 2018, IAI and Airbus DS Airborne Solutions successfully completed 200 flight hours in civilian airspace with a variant of Heron in maritime patrol and coast guard missions over Crete.
Asked whether additional certification is required with German civil air navigation service provider DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung, to enable Heron TP to operate in controlled airspace, Dupiech noted: ‘For the time being it’s not foreseen by the German customer to operate German Heron TP over Germany. Once the decision of the German customer has been taken to fly over German territory, we will approach the responsible organisations in order to apply for the necessary approvals.’
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