Airborne surveillance of the future
Development of aircraft and engines is currently most rapid in the UAV field. The German Q01 is an optionally piloted airframe coupled to a turbocharged diesel engine, able to stay airborne for days.
New Zealand has a coastline of 15,134km, the ninth longest in the world. Airborne surveillance for this is provided by the RNZAF’s Lockheed P-3K Orions which have an operational radius of 1000nm and an endurance of 15hr with two engines shut down to conserve fuel. Australia ranks sixth in coastline length with a distance of 66,530km.
A New Zealand company, Future Aeronautical Systems Technology (FAST) is currently working on a system for airborne surveillance, using an aircraft developed in Germany.
Paul Buchanan, COO, and David Rattenbury, director, are the main drivers of the company. Both worked for The Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL), building WWI vintage aircraft and engines for Sir Peter Jackson. After TVAL was downsized, they and some other former employees set up a company to provide a large unmanned aircraft platform to perform long endurance maritime surveillance around New Zealand.
After looking at options for converting an existing motor-glider or building from scratch, they found that Dr Reiner Stemme had already gone down that path. After visiting his new company RS-UAS in Schönhagen, central Germany, last year, they decided to represent the cutting edge technology of Stemme, rather than reinvent the wheel. FAST will represent, promote, sell and support the RS-UAS range of utility air systems in Australasia.
The Q01 is the first of the new design to fly and has been developed primarily for the Qatar coast protection and border control programme. The Q01 is in the 1000kg ISR class and has a dual flight mode for manned and unmanaged missions, with low noise, infrared and radar signatures. Its carbon composite airframe has a wingspan of 20m and an empty weight of 1550kg and MAUW of 2750kg.
The Technify 310 twin turbocharged diesel, burning jetA1 or diesel fuel, gives it a 190kt cruise to the mission area and a low loiter speed on station. Duration is up to 50hr unmanned, with a ceiling of 30,000ft, allowing a surveillance line of 4500nm.
Qatar’s purchase of the RS-UAS Q01 airborne platform highlights its growing need to further extend a Persian Gulf sea surveillance capacity, for which it will be equipped with the Thales 5 in 1 Seamaster radar with the Westcam MX 20 ISR/IR turret mounted under the cockpit. The four hardpoints can hold either quick change sensor pods/ D cameras or fuel tanks, depending on the mission requirements.
On a global scale, the demand for long-endurance surveillance aircraft is witnessing a gradual change from manned-only aircraft to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). With its dual mode, Q01 represents a new category of airborne platform, agile enough to stay aloft for days and carry large sensor payloads.
Qatar’s government will spend up to $US100m ($147m) to improve its airborne surveillance capacity. Its Q01 M-ALE (medium-altitude long endurance) platform can be manned by up to two crew or piloted from a ground station and is described by the manufacturer as an OPV (optionally piloted vehicle) for surveillance missions.
The Q01 project was initiated by German-Qatar cooperation, according to RS-UAS. It will be able to merge technology and mission experience and is matching the requirements of the international market.
FAST says that compared to helicopters and existing patrol aircraft, the Q01 platform costs less per flight hour ($250–300), has longer endurance, generates less noise and pollution, requires less maintenance, has fewer vibrations to upset the sensors and is faster over the area of operation. RS-UAS and Qatar have decided to make this aircraft available to all nations.
- Report by Max Pudney, phototraph supplied by RS-UAS.
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