Knysna-based unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) specialist ALTI has signed a partnership agreement with the United States’ Argentech to supply the US government with a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) testing vehicle.
The collaboration started off as a simple reseller agreement, which included the opportunity for Argentech to sit in and take part in the ALTI Transition Training course to be able to assist clients with basic requests as and when needed. This led to further discussions around Argentech being able to fulfil a role as an official training service provider in the United States, ALTI said.
Certain limitations made it difficult for ALTI to deal directly with the government agency in question and led to the collaboration on the project between ALTI and Argentech.
As Argentech is a systems integrator and UAV training provider, it was natural for it to become an official distributor for ALTI and an official training facility for clients in the USA, ALTI said.
The ultimate goal of the partnership is to make aircraft solutions readily available to clientele in the United States, making the option available to clients able to get training done in their own country.
ALTI says it is Africa’s largest UAV manufacturer, operating out of Knysna in the Western Cape. It designs and manufactures a complete fleet of advanced endurance VTOL unmanned aircraft and supporting systems, including avionics and ground control systems. ALTI has been operating and exporting unmanned aircraft for nearly ten years, and has many of its aircraft flying all around the world.
“ALTI is fully compliant and registered with defence export control and able to offer high performance and affordable alternatives to traditional and costly military equipment, from target drones to training, rugged and reliable every-day work horse aircraft and more,” the company said.
ALTI offers three aircraft, the Ascend, Transition and Reach, which are all suitable for a variety of applications. Standing out from other UAVs built in South Africa is the Transition, which can take off vertically using four battery-powered rotors and then transition to horizontal flight, where it is powered by a petrol engine. This does away for the need for runways or complex launch and recovery methods. The 18 kilogram aircraft has a wingspan of three metres and can carry a variety of cameras and sensors weighing up to 1.5 kilograms with an endurance of up to 12 hours. It has been widely exported.
The larger Reach UAV has a six metre wingspan and 90 kilogram maximum takeoff weight (including 7 kg payload). Endurance is 12+ hours. The smaller Ascend, with a two metre wingspan, follows the same configuration but has a six hour endurance and 600 gram payload.
ALTI’s UAVs are marketed for a multitude of roles, including security and surveillance, mapping and photogrammetry, defence and security applications. They can be equipped with electro-optical/infrared payloads (such as the Trillium HD25, HD40 and NextVision NightHawk2) for day/night operations and mapping payloads, amongst others – a search and rescue version has also been developed.
Since establishment, Alti has shipped over 1 000 unmanned aircraft. It is currently working on several new products, including a new multi-rotor and all-electric VTOL range as well as a 19 and 21 foot unmanned surface vessel.