Swiss UAV Company Expands and Makes U.S. Debut
A Swiss-owned company that is developing a trio of remotely piloted air systems (RPAS) for civil and military applications made its inaugural appearance at the recent Unmanned Systems conference in Washington, D.C. Unmanned Systems Group, with headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, displayed its Discoverer and Discoverer II fixed-wing air vehicles and a scale model of the planned Atro-X unmanned helicopter featuring tip-jet rotor propulsion.
Last July, Unmanned Systems AG, the group’s investor- and management-owned parent company, acquired a majority share of Swiss UAV. The combined group now has facilities in Baar and Niederdorf, Switzerland; Linköping, Sweden; and Bicester, UK.
A “production prototype” of the 551-pound (250 kg) mtow Discoverer II made its first flight on September 3 last year at Karlskoga airfield, Sweden, some five months after the company completed the design. The composite and metal air vehicle is configured as a pusher-prop with twin tail booms connected by a horizontal stabilizer. It has a 23-foot wingspan and winglets. With a payload capacity of up to 154 pounds (70 kg), the aircraft is designed to carry the Selex Seaspray 5000E maritime surveillance radar and an electro-optical/infrared turret for both blue-water and littoral surveillance. For surveillance over ground, it can be fitted with the Selex PicoSAR AESA radar. The group advertises endurance of more than 16 hours, based on the size of a fuel tank module and the payload.
The 46-pound Discoverer small RPAS is based on an earlier platform designated the CT-450 and first flown in January 2012. The air vehicle has twin tail booms and an inverted V-tail, with a universal payload mount for various sensors, including a retractable gimbal. It can be launched from a Thule car roof rack or a portable pneumatic catapult, and has more than 20 hours’ endurance. Both Discoverers are designed to be modular, with interchangeable components. They have no components subject to U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions.
James Scott, RPAS ground support manager, said the group is focused on further developing the Discoverer II, which has drawn interest from the Swedish special forces, among other potential customers, as a possible RQ-7 Shadow replacement. The next milestone is to fully integrate a Swiss UAV autopilot, which was being tested on a Penguin B aircraft manufactured by UAV Factory, a U.S.-based company. The group will begin hot-and-high testing of the Discoverer II in Kuwait in partnership with Kuwait Aerospace Technologies, which plans to build an unmanned aircraft center of excellence in that country.