CADG launches Helix optionally piloted ISR system


Singapore-headquartered CADG has launched its Helix optionally piloted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) system, using an ES-15 motor-glider and avionics supplied by Cape Town-based S-Plane.

Unveiled at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition last month, the Helix system comprises the ES-15 motor-glider and ground control station. The aircraft is fitted with Hensoldt Argos II camera and two hardpoints for other systems (each hardpoint can carry 80 kg, including external fuel tanks). Data from the camera is sent to the ground control station and viewed in real time out to a line of sight range of 200 kilometres. The ES-15 aircraft has an endurance of 8-10 hours.

Helix was developed with Stemme division Ecarys, which manufactures the ES-15 aircraft, and S-Plane, which provides the hardware and software that converts the ES-15 into an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV). This is S-Plane’s X-Kit system, which has also been installed on a Tecnam P206 twin-engined aircraft and Fama Kiss 209 helicopter.

Professor Thomas Jones, CEO of S-Plane, said the basic Helix-1 system can be flown with a single pilot while the mission equipment is controlled from the ground station, while the Helix-2 can take the pilot out of the cockpit entirely. Helix-1 is operational while Helix-2 is undergoing flight testing.

CADG has headquarters in Singapore and regional offices in the United States and Kenya. The company provides engineering and construction, camp construction and life support, aviation, logistics and procurement and international development services. It has done work in the Middle East and nearly 20 African countries.

Its aviation services include cargo and passenger transport, oil and gas industry services and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services via its sister companies Ultimate Air and Ultimate Heli. Ultimate Air is headquartered in South Africa and has Ultimate Unmanned Systems as one of its divisions.

Ultimate Air has worked with S-Plane in the past, and at AAD 2016 launched the Viper 1000C unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), based on a Stemme motor glider. Production models were to be based on the Stemme S15 and the Stemme S6 to be used for training. Endurance of the aircraft is 28 hours with external and internal extended endurance tanks. Maximum altitude is 25 000 feet. The 18 metre long, 1 100 kg aircraft has a cruise speed of 113 knots and is powered by a turbocharged Rotax 914 engine delivering 113 hp.

Flight is fully autonomous with automatic takeoff and landing and point to point waypoint navigation. Multiple payload options include high definition cameras, forward looking infrared systems and night vision systems. Two wing mounted hardpoints can carry up to 80 kg of payload, although total payload is up to 350 kg.

Ultimate Unmanned used S-Plane for its Paragon command and control system, automation avionics and ground system for the Viper 1000C. The Viper 1000C can be operated in either unmanned or piloted mode.

S-Plane reached a similar agreement with Germany’s Stemme on the optionally piloted ES-15 in early 2017 whereby S-Plane would integrate its subsystems onto the motor-glider. “Ecarys is a wholly owned Stemme subsidiary and specialises in providing platforms for aerial surveillance, reconnaissance and scientific research missions. The new optionally piloted aircraft is a Stemme product, directly supported by the company as the original equipment manufacturer and will be powered by S-Plane avionics and ground control station,” the companies said last year.

The Ecarys ES-15 has a 770 lb (350 kg) payload capacity and a 1 350 nm (2 500 km) range. Its low radar and minimal infrared signature make it an ideal platform for surveillance missions, Stemme and S-Plane said.

The Stemme ASP S15 motor-glider has been used by Sagem to create the Patroller unmanned aerial vehicle.

S-Plane was established in 2008 and specialises in optionally piloted vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles and their navigation, flight control and mission management subsystems, including ground support elements. All software is developed in-house and all hardware is manufactured in South Africa. Product and development scope spans both the civil and military UAV markets, and also extends to autonomous land, sea-surface and underwater vehicles and their subsystems.

In addition to manufacturing control systems and software, S-Plane has built two UAVs: the Swift and Nightingale.