Change of UAE Management Doesn’t Ground Camcopter
By WENDELL MINNICK
UAE and Austrian-based Schiebel are moving forward on the co-production of the S-100 Camcopter vertical takeoff and landing UAV despite recent surprise managerial changes in the UAE.
Wolfgang Steigberger, resident manager, Schiebel Middle East, told attendees at the AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems Middle East 2007 Conference, sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) on Nov. 10, that there had been a surprise turn of events involving local management.
“Just to keep us on our toes, our UAE partners have recently brought on board new management,” he said. “So we have new faces, new ideas, and new influx into the project: so far the vision is understood, and we are all working with industry to incorporate the new team at full stream into the ongoing production and improvement of the project.”
After passing acceptance trials in the UAE in March 2006, the UAE ordered 80 S-100s and Schiebel established a production facility in the UAE under the sponsorship of the UAE’s UAV Research and Technology Center (UAVRTC), concentrating on advanced composition production and assembly of the S-100. The UAVRTC also contributed to the S-100 “Al Saber” test and development program. The UAVRTC, based in Abu Dhabi, is funded by the UAE Armed Forces.
“When the Schiebel company initially met with UAE representatives, there was a definite click between both parties: the vision was shared and under understood, and both parties became totally gripped with developing the S-100 Camcopter and dedicated to the pursuit of perfection,” said Steigberger. “We produce, assemble and test every aerial vehicle made in the UAE in our local facilities which are located at the Al Dhafra Airbase.”
In other news from the conference, Ali Al Dhaheri, general designer for the UAE-based Advanced Communications (ADCOM) Research and Development Center, told conference attendees that the main goals of the next generation of UAV’s were to fill information gaps and improve performance.
“UAV’s should be designed to reduce the air resistance, to improve the uplift capability, payload capability, flight stability, to reduce weight, and reduce energy consumption per flying hour,” he told attendees.
ADCOM has been working to improve these issues and make further advancements in the platform, electronic modules, stabilization of the platform during flight, terrain avoidance system, and improve the laser IR automatic landing system. “Our system can handle 10 aircraft,” he said.
ADCOM produces three main command and control systems, including the ADCOM Navigation System Version 2.0, Data Link 1.2, and the Flight Anti-Collision System 1.1, as well as a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. The company has been based in the UAE for 18 years.
Lighter-Than-Air platforms such as airships and aerostats are gaining interest in military circles, not just in the U.S. but also the Middle East, argues Greg Gottlieb, a lighter-than-air consultant based in UAE and a former British military officer. He believes they have been largely underutilized since the 1950s.
Despite the infamous Hindenberg tragedy, today’s platforms are filled with helium, not the volatile hydrogen. Gottlieb said aerostats and airships have a variety of military applications, including surveillance and electronic warfare, communications relay, weapons platforms that would include air-to-ground missiles, and policing missions. He explained the platforms have virtually no radar signature and despite attempts to shoot them down during exercises the platforms take a tremendous amount of punishment.
Current aerostat programs under development or already deployed include the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor (JLENS) program and Persistent Threat Detection System in Iraq and Afghanistan, a 71m aerostat currently now being used in Kuwait, he said. Gottlieb said that aerostats are now being considered in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq for border and internal security initiatives.
AUVSI executive director Daryl Davidson told attendees that AUVSI was making a concerted effort to expand the association’s online presence with the AUVSI Forum for member discussion of UAV issues, a new AUVSI Wiki modeled after Wikipedia, and an AUVSI Online Guide database that catalogs unmanned systems around the world.
AUVSI has also established an Unmanned Systems Institute that promotes academic research and programs designed to “increase AUVSI’s capability to participate in political, ethical and technical debates and to act as an impartial and objective, trusted advisor, analyst, think tank and partner on a wide range of issues,” he said.