Paris 2011: IAI’s Small, Electrically Powered UAVs Take Off and Land Vertically
On display in the IAI corral outside the Israeli Pavilion are two of the company’s latest concepts for providing observation capability. Developed by the Malat division, both can take off and land vertically, and use electric power for ultra-quiet operations.
Panther is a 143-pound UAV that combines the advantages of both fixed- and rotary-wing flight. Although shaped like a fixed-wing aircraft, it takes off vertically under the power of three lifting propellers. Under automatic control, it can then transition to forward flight by tilting the wing-mounted propellers, with the rear fuselage propeller shut down when the vehicle has reached sufficient airspeed for wingborne flight.
Mission endurance is six hours, and the Panther can fly at 40 knots loiter speed at a typical operational altitude of 3,000 feet, out to a range of 38 miles. Payload is 22 pounds, and is featured here with IAI’s Mini Pop EO/IR(electro-optical/infrared )/laser-pointer turret.
Panther has been flight-tested and has aroused considerable interest. Its autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability lends it to a variety of tasks, including shipborne operations, where the launch versatility of a traditional VTOL UAV is needed, but also offers the better endurance characteristics provided by fixed-wing vehicles.
IAI Malat has applied the same concept to a smaller UAV known as Mini Panther. This is a 26-pound machine with a 4.4-pound IAI Micro Pop payload. It has an endurance of 1.5 hours and operational altitude of 1,500 feet.
For immediate observation capability from either a stationary position or moving vehicle, Malat has conceived the ETOP (electrical tethered observation platform). This uses four electrically driven rotors to lift a 44-pound payload into the air. It can be deployed very rapidly with a single click, and hover at a predetermined height up to a maximum of 330 feet, an altitude it can reach in 30 seconds.
As its name suggests, ETOP is tethered to the launch platform by a cable, through which communications and sensor data is transmitted. The cable also allows power to be fed to the aerial platform from a ground source, providing unlimited endurance as long as a power supply can be maintained.