The Italian Navy has agreed a lease with Schiebel for the Camcopter S-100 vertical take-off unmanned air vehicle (VTUAV). The 12-month contract, the value of which is undisclosed, will enable the navy to conduct an extended operational evaluation of the system.
The navy told IHS Jane's that the lease arrangement will enable it to verify system performance and potential capabilities, to develop operational requirements for a range of unmanned systems, and to construct a potential acquisition plan for these systems.
The Schiebel VTUAV's lease contract, which is expected to become effective with the delivery of equipment at the end of March 2014, includes loan of a control station and, according to Schiebel, two air vehicles, training for Italian Navy personnel, and technical and logistics support.
The VTUAV capability is intended in principle to be embarked in the navy's surface fleet. The lease contract was developed following the successful demonstration of the Camcopter on board the navy's Artigliere-class frigate Bersagliere on 17 April 2012, when Schiebel-operated S-100s conducted 11 successful touch-and-go landings as the ship sailed in Sea States 3 to 4 and 28 kt winds off the coast of La Spezia, Italy. According to Schiebel, the Camcopter was carrying an L-3 Communications Wescam electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR) MX-10 camera, which transmitted high definition real-time images to the control station during 4.5 hours of flight time.
At a conference in 2013, the navy said the demonstration showed that the system could be operated at sea with significant ease of embarkation and a very limited footprint, and showed the system's "potential for operational effectiveness".
Due to the nature of the contract, the navy elected to select a payload already integrated by Schiebel on board the Camcopter. The package - including the Wescam MX-10, a Shine Micro AIS (Automatic Identification System), and a data link - can enable the VTUAV to collect time-critical data over a period of up to six hours, said Schiebel in a press statement on 11 February.
Although no precise details are available on the system configuration, as with larger MX-series products the MX-10 can incorporate up to six sensors, including EO/IR systems, colour and electron-multiplied CCD imaging sensors, and laser rangefinding, pointing, and illumination capability. The Camcopter itself has a hover capability and, for take-off and landing purposes, can be fitted with a Schiebel-designed harpoon system, which supports operations in conditions up to Sea State 5.