Special forces take interest in Israeli tiltrotor electric UAV


Special forces are taking interest in a new 65kg electric-powered Israeli tiltrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Panther, debuted to the public yesterday, features three “ultra-quiet” electrical motors, one on each wing and a third, facing upward, on the rear fuselage.

British online aviation journal Flight International reports the company told it the vehicle is being evaluated by non-Israeli “special forces” but did specify national origin or numbers. The new design is currently on display at a land forces conference in Latrun, central Israel, that ends tomorrow.

IAI says in a statement that the “Panther combines the flight capabilities of an airplane with helicopter-like hovering, a tilt-rotor propeller, and a fixed wing vertical takeoff and landing system, which enable a runway-free takeoff and landing on an unprepared area…”

An automatic flight control system controls the transitions between the hovering takeoff phase to forward flight, and vice versa, before landing. The Panther takes off and lands automatically “by a simple click of the operator console”, thus eliminating the need for an external pilot, the statement added.

Itzhak Nissan, President and CEO of IAI, added that the “Panther’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, along with its effective use of changing flight dynamics, make it a unique and invaluable asset on the tactical battlefield for the Israel Defense Forces and for foreign customers. We consider the innovative technology used in this system to be ground-breaking.”

The Panther can loiter for approximately six hours at an altitude of up to 10,000 feet, with a radius of operation of over 60 km. It carries IAI’s Mini-POP (Plug-in Optronic Payload) – a day/night stabilised camera with a laser range finder, pointer or laser designator.

The Panther control station, transported on a midsize vehicle, can store up to three aircraft, as well as the ground data link, the support equipment and spare parts. Two operators control the mission using two fully redundant identical consoles, the statement continued.

IAI says a smaller version of the tilt-rotor UAV, the Mini-Panther, which weighs up to 12kg and can loiter for approximately two hours is also on the way. The Mini Panther system includes two planes and a command and control unit, and is carried in backpacks by two soldiers.

Both platforms, designed to be automatic, can be controlled by one operator, while the command and control station has two operators to control the station and oversee the mission. IAI hopes the Panther will be operational by next year.