IDEX Sees New Products, New Improvements

IDEX 2013 saw the debut of several new unmanned systems and the updating of some older ones.

On the air side, Microdrones displayed its new md4-3000, the largest model in its stable that uses a sleek design and more powerful battery to gain longer range.


Daniel Knoche, sales manager for the company, said the md4-3000 boasts endurance of up to two hours, much longer than some similar rotorcraft, and can carry a payload of up to 4 kilograms. It should be on the market this fall.

Piaggio Aero Industries showed the P.1HH HammerHead unmanned aircraft, based on the company's P.180 Avanti II manned aircraft. Selex ES will provide the mission systems, including its skyISTAR mission management system.

The first HammerHead vehicle was rolled out last week and first flight is expected later this year.

The UAE's own Adcom Systems displayed its largest vehicle yet, the United 40, which was unveiled at the Dubai Air Show in 2011 and commemorates the anniversary of the United Arab Emirates, which turned 40 that year. A full-sized mockup of a newer configuration of the vehicle was displayed in the exhibit's courtyard.

AeroVironment displayed a CybAero Apid 60 unmanned helicopter in its booth, built by Lingkoping, Sweden-based CybAero. The companies announced in December that AeroVironment would be the distributor for CybAero's helicopter to the U.S. military and civil markets and the militaries of allied nations. The company will add secure data links and advanced GPS to the platform.

Company officials said CybAero's system offered the best combination of capability and ease of maintenance, and the platform is already familiar to the market as it forms the basis of the Indra Pelicano, the Saab Skeldar and the Cassidian Talon.

Turkish Aerospace Industries showed a model of its Anka medium-range UAS, which is nearing first deliveries for the Turkish air force, according to Remzi Barlas, the engineering director of TAI's UAV Systems Division. The Anka recently completed a series of acceptance tests for the Turkish air force, with serial production expected to begin this summer.

"There is a growing interest in Anka," Barlas said, for both domestic and international sales.

TAI is also considering a larger UAS and is developing a family of unmanned helicopters, partly aimed at meeting a Turkish navy requirement. Barlas said the company had self-funded a smaller version as a test bed, but has now received interest from civilian users for it while continuing to work on larger systems, on the scale of Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout.

Ingenria Dei Sistemi (IDS) of Pisa, Italy, showed a concept of the Hero unmanned helicopter, a project being developed with AugustaWestland. Hero is aimed mostly at intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance work and is expected to undergo final testing this summer, according to Matteo Sensini, a marketing official for the company. The system is expected to be on the market in October and a training center for pilots and operators, including a simulator, is expected to be operational by the end of this year.

Ground

On the ground side, the Swiss/German company Minewolf debuted the newest member of its antimine family of equipment, the Micro Minewolf, a remotely operated vehicle that can clear roads, move through jungle and other rough terrain, and even carry troops' supplies.

The MW50 Micro Minewolf made its world debut at the show. The vehicle is intended to be transported on the back of a truck or by helicopter. The company's family of antimine systems includes the manned Minewolf, the optionally manned Medium Minewolf and the remotely controlled Mini Minewolf, as well as the new micro vehicle.

Switzerland's Ruag Defence showed a new concept for robotic vehicle control, VERO. The company has developed the appliqu© kit for the Swiss army Eagle IV military vehicle, allowing it to be driven by a human or operated remotely. It can be retrofitted to existing vehicles.

"It allows us to robotize an existing vehicle in a relatively short time for the purpose of saving lives," said Ferdinand Zoller, manager of business development for Ruag.

The current system allows the vehicle to be remotely operated at a range of up to 1.5 kilometers, Zoller said.

The company is planning VERO in three phases: remote control via radio link by the end of 2013; semiautonomous control in 2014, meaning preplanned courses could be programmed into the system; and autonomous operation after that.

"It's not such a simple thing," Zoller said of autonomous driving. "It's also expensive." However, the company has big plans. "We would like to be a leader in this market, at least in Europe," he said.

Maritime

The IDEX show also included NAVDEX, devoted to maritime systems. VideoRay conducted daily demonstrations of its Pro 4 MIL 300S in the murky waters off a floating pier, allowing interested visitors to see what lay on the bottom and even detect schools of tiny fish.

The system includes a BlueView P9000130 imaging sonar and is operated by Copilot RI software developed by Scotland's SeeByte.

The UAE-based company Al Seer Marine displayed a range of unmanned surface vessels, including the new Eclipse class, built on 11-meter hulls from North Palm Beach, Fla.-based 5G International. The company also displayed the smaller Sea Serpent, an unmanned vessel based on a jet ski, which is in use by the UAE military.

Al Seer's command system can control up to four of the USVs at once, via automation or remote operation.

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