Defence and security company Saab’s Skeldar Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) is operational aboard the Spanish Navy offshore patrol vessel BAM Meteoro, which is taking part in the European Union’s Operation Atalanta in the Gulf of Aden.
Earlier this year Saab announced a contract to deploy the Skeldar UAS for maritime operations.
Mikael Franzén, Director of Saab’s Product Area Tactical UAS said of the deployment: “The Skeldar V-200 is operated together with a manned helicopter to enhance the vessel’s surveillance capabilities during its mission to fight piracy as part of the EU Atalanta operation in the Gulf of Aden.”
Prior to the Atalanta deployment, successful integration trials were conducted on-board the BAM Relámpago in the waters off the Canary Islands.
“Since signing the first contact we are seeing an increasing interest for Skeldar where more and more potential customers are discovering Skeldar’s strengths and features, including airworthiness, heavy fuel engine, high performance and operational capability,” Franzén said.
Skeldar is a rotary wing, short to medium range UAV that can be controlled from a tailored control station. It can be equipped with a wide range of payloads, including surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition and 3D mapping. The system can be used for both civil and military purposes.
Another area where Skeldar can be utilised is in the ongoing fight against rhino poaching in particularly South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
Jerker Ahlqvist, general manager of Saab Aeronautics South Africa, sees UAVs as enhancing the operational effectiveness of rangers and law enforcement agencies, including the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), when it comes to counter-poaching operations.
“The Skeldar can be utilised for surveillance, reconnaissance, aerial photography and border patrol. Its real time data and image transmission allows conservationists and rangers to survey large area. The rotary-wing design allows it to move slowly or hover in one position. It can also approach areas while remaining difficult to detect even with surveillance radar.
“The beauty of the system is its size and mobility. It can easily fit onto the back of a trailer, so it’s easy to move around the bush or on small gravel roads. It doesn’t need a landing strip and is easily assembled and launched by a team of five,” he said.
Saab has a number of flexible cost solutions making use of this technology affordable and attractive for national parks and reserves.
“By purchasing an agreed number of flying hours, which includes all operations and maintenance by a dedicated Saab team, conservationists has access to much-needed 21st-century technology to enhance their operations and mobility,” Ahlqvist said.