Africa Aerospace & Defense 2014

Small but smart UAV s under development [AAD143]

19 September 2014

Paramount Advanced Technologies (Hangar 4, Stand A14) is showing off a range of UAVs that are in development as part of its strategy to develop robotic and autonomous systems that can be applied to a range of air, sea, land and underwater applications. The new vehicles build on 30 years of experience gained by the company’s acquisition of ATE.

In size, the largest of the vehicles is the Mwari, which is based on the AHRLAC multimission aircraft also unveiled this week. The roots of Mwari lie in a quarter-scale model of the AHRLAC, which flew about 80 times in support of the full-scale aircraft development programme.

During these trials it was discovered that the properties of the scale model made it ideal for an unmanned application with a primary sensor turret in the nose. Two prototype Mwari vehicles have been constructed. Partnering the Mwari are the Civet, a conventional electric-powered mini-UAV that is already in use, and the new Roadrunner. The latter employs a rhomboid wing configuration to give it a very high speed range, from 70-300km/h.

Launched from a catapult, the Roadrunner can fly at high speed to an area of interest before slowing to loiter, and then return to make a stalled belly landing. Roadrunner can be powered by electric or petrol engines, and is being tested with propellers and ducted fans. A turbine engine is an option. Roadrunner is currently under development, and Paramount expects the vehicle to be ready for production by the first quarter of next year.

For the small UAVs in particular, Paramount views them as part of wider systems to be tied in with developments to land and sea vehicles.

Another avenue that is being explored is the development of smarter operation and analysis tools that would automatically spot potential targets of interest. For many UAVs, the task of monitoring the imagery falls to the operator, who may have to sit for hours looking at a screen. An autonomous system could use algorithms to detect targets, automatically flagging them and alerting the operator.

For the future, Paramount is looking to develop a larger air vehicle, in the 500-600kg ‘light MALE’ (medium-altitude, long-endurance) class.

(360 words)