CADG’s Helix ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft has carried out a successful demonstration in the Kruger National Park where it has helped in the apprehension of half a dozen suspected wildlife poachers.
The Helix was deployed to the southern areas of the park between mid-May and the end of June this year.
Theo Pistorius, Helix Project Manager and Chief Pilot, said that half a dozen suspected poachers were apprehended after being detected by the Helix aircraft, including during night operations. After being tracked from the air, rangers with tracker dogs were then deployed to capture the suspects.
The aircraft also took part in a demonstration where simulated poachers approached a camp hosting an anti-poaching fundraiser event, with the aircraft beaming live footage of the ‘poachers’ approaching guests before they were apprehended.
The Helix aircraft is fitted with a Hensoldt Optronics Argos II HD day and night camera, which was able to clearly track suspected poachers whilst the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 10 000 feet. Pistorius said that the camera is highly sensitive and can, for example, detect the heat from a helicopter from 20 to 30 kilometres away. When flying at 10 000 feet, the Helix aircraft is inaudible from the ground and essentially undetectable to poachers.
The Helix I is a manned aircraft and has been flying for some time. The Helix II is an optionally piloted vehicle under development, and should be ready around the end of this year with the order book open by the end of 2020. It will be tested in Germany, with an unmanned demonstration planned for Portugal.
The Helix was unveiled for the first time at the 2018 edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition outside Pretoria. The Helix system comprises the Ecarys ES-15 motor-glider and ground control station. The aircraft is fitted with Hensoldt Argos II HD 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 radius of 100 kilometres. The ES-15 aircraft has an endurance of 8-10 hours. The Helix I can be flown with a single pilot while the mission equipment is controlled from the ground station.
The Helix aircraft has a wingspan of 18 metres, a maximum takeoff weight of 1 100 kg and payload of 350 kg. It is powered by a Rotax 914F2 engine delivering 115 hp giving an operating speed of 93-270 km/h and range of 1 300 km on internal fuel or 2 500 km with external fuel. The aircraft can be configured with a single pilot and a camera mounted under the fuselage, or with two seats.
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.
The aircraft’s low radar and minimal infrared signature make it an ideal platform for surveillance missions. The Helix is not the first Stemme motor-glider conversion – France’s Sagem has used the S15 to create the Patroller unmanned aerial vehicle.
Although headquartered in Singapore, CADG has regional offices in the United States, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Kenya and is most active in the Middle East and Africa, with operations in some 20 African countries. It provides aviation, logistics and procurement, engineering, construction and camp construction services, amongst others. Aviation services are rendered by sister company Ultimate Aviation, specialising in cargo and passenger transport in remote environments, including combat zones and disaster relief areas. Ultimate Aviation is headquartered in South Africa.
CADG is offering the Helix as a platform that can be purchased outright, with CADG supplying training and maintenance support, or as a capability that can be leased by the client. Applications include surveillance, anti-poaching, maritime patrol, anti-piracy, border patrol, convoy surveillance/support, seismic mapping and geographical survey.
CADG Aeronautical Innovations points out that the aircraft is free of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions, making it attractive to countries around the world.