A proven, certified high-performance aircraft with advanced integrated subsystems to operate in either piloted or unmanned configuration opens up a host of mission possibilities. This is a solution contained in an agreement between South African company S-Plane Automation (Stand 12-C40) and Stemme AG of Germany.
This optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) is based on the Ecarys ES15 aircraft platform, which combines the benefits of a manned aircraft with those of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). In the manned configuration, the OPV can execute missions that demand human judgement and control, such as flight in civil airspace or over congested areas, or flying at a low altitude and transporting passengers.
In UAV mode, it can perform missions requiring extreme endurance or those that could endanger the life of a pilot. This includes hazmat containment, firefighting and critical infrastructure protection, or surveillance, cargo delivery and border/ maritime patrol.
In the joint announcement by S-Plane and Stemme, the comprehensive envisaged solution includes development of the automated version of the Ecarys ES15 aircraft platform, and integration of S-Plane subsystems with the ground control station, making it suitable for a variety of mission profiles.
The certified high-performance Ecarys ES15 platform has a 350kg payload capacity and 2,500km (1,350nm) range. In addition to low fuel consumption, low noise emission and low maintenance requirements, the platform has a low radar and minimal infrared signature, making it ideal for surveillance missions.
With its suitability to carry a variety of payloads, the aircraft can operate in mission-driven mode where the entire flight, from automated take-off to landing, is directed by on-board control systems. A remote pilot can take control of the aircraft at any time, altering the mission or interactively controlling the aircraft and payload.
Not only is real-time payload video provided at the ground control station by means of high bandwidth LOS (line of sight) links, but beyond-LOS operation can be effected via satellite links.