The French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) announced on 5 January that it has ordered 35 Spy'Ranger unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Thales for the French Army's Système de Mini Drone de Reconnaissance (SMDR) requirement.
The SMDR is set to replace the Airbus Drone de Renseignement Au Contact (DRAC), which has been operated by the French Army since 2008.
The initial contract, placed on 21 December 2016, covers a firm order for 35 systems and maintenance support for 10 years. The contract also includes provisions to raise the total of systems ordered up to 70, if required. Each system includes three UAVs and a ground control station.
Deliveries of the UAVs are scheduled to begin at the end of 2018.
The Spy'Ranger weighs 14.5 kg, has a 2.8 m wingspan, and an endurance of 2.5 hours. It is fitted with a Spyball turret with a day camera, infrared camera, and a laser target illuminator. Thales is said to have drawn on its experience with the French Air Force's new Reco NG reconnaissance pod in creating the Spyball and the networking systems of the Spy'Ranger. The UAV has a high-speed encrypted datalink, capable of operating in standalone mode with the ground station, or across a wider C4I network. This capability is said to have been a key factor in Thales winning the SMDR contract.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options: ihs.com/contact