Last week saw Austrian company Schiebel successfully undertake trials with its Camcopter S-100 unmanned air system (UAS) using the SA Navy hydrographic vessel, SAS Protea, in False Bay.
In a statement the Austrian manufacturer, which also produces a range of defence and humanitarian products, said: “The maritime environment hold unique demands for both situational awareness and timely communications. The Camcopter S-100 is an asset that meets these requirements, specifically with its ability to persistently extend the electronic ears and eyes of maritime commanders to operational ranges well beyond those on sensors on board.
“The SA Navy as well as representatives of other South African government authorities had the opportunity to see these capabilities for themselves at sea offshore Naval Base Simon’s town.
The S-100 conducted all flights from the aft deck of the SAS Protea, a Hecla class deep-ocean hydrographic survey vessel. Turbulent head and crosswinds beyond 25 knots, limited deck size as well as lack of NATO landing grid represented exceptional challenges during the trials.
The unmanned helicopter effortlessly conducted automatic take-offs and landings and all other required manoeuvres, thanks to its integrated GPS-independent positioning system, enabling pinpoint precision at a high dynamic range.
During the trials the payload chosen and demonstrated was the Selex ES SAGE Electronic Support Measure (ESM) system, allowing the Camcopter S-100 to detect, identify and geo-locate radio frequency sources while routinely operating out to 200 km or remaining on-station for periods of more than six hours.
“This system provides the right support for maritime surveillance missions or anti-piracy operations in which the SA Navy is interested,” the Vienna headquartered company said.
Camcopter is a rotary-winged vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS that needs no specially prepared area or supporting launch or recovery equipment. It can operate 24/7 with a beyond line-of-sight capability out to 300km, on land and at sea.
The S-100 navigates via pre-programmed GPS waypoints or is operated with a pilot control unit. Missions are planned and controlled via a point-and-click graphic user interface. High-definition payload imagery is transmitted to the control station in real time. Using “fly-by-wire” technology controlled by a triple-redundant flight computer, the UAS can complete its mission automatically. Its carbon fibre and titanium fuselage provides capacity for a wide range of payload/endurance combinations up to a service ceiling of 18,000 foot. In its standard configuration, the Camcopter S-100 carries a 34 kg payload up to 10 hours and is powered by either Avgas or heavy fuel.