Elbit to Supply Watchkeeper X Tactical UAS to Romania

Elbit Systems was awarded a framework contract with a maximum value of approximately $410 million to supply up to 7 Watchkeeper X tactical unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to the Romanian Army, with a validity of five years. No specific purchase order was awarded yet. The Watchkeeper X UAS is the UK export variant of the British army made by U-TacS, Elbit’s UK subsidiary in cooperation with Thales, and is a derivative of the Hermes UAS family. Watchkeeper’s compatibility with  NATO standards enables essential interoperability with NATO and other allied forces.

Bezalel (Butzi) Machlis, President and CEO of Elbit Systems, said that as part of the contract execution, Elbit plans to establish infrastructure and industrial cooperation with U-TacS, Aerostar and Elbit Systems’ subsidiaries in Romania to produce the UAS in Romania. Watchkeeper is based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 and is considered one of the biggest UAS European programs. Since the first flight in 2010, Watchkeeper has accumulated over 3,000 flying hours, including successful service in Afghanistan, where it played a crucial protective role for British troops.

Elbit’s Hermes UAS was approved to fly in Israel civil airspace

The Civil Aviation Authority of the State of Israel (CAAI) in the MOT has certified an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), the Hermes Starliner, a Type Certificate, approving it to fly in all civilian airspace, just like any other civilian airplane. Head of the CAAI, Joel Feldschuh, says this is the first time in the world to provide an UAS an identical certificate to civilian plane. “The certification we granted to the Hermes Starliner is aligned with international activity in this field. This Type Certificate was issued at the end of a fundamental process that we led for six years that included thousands of man hours, dozens of audits, laboratory tests, ground tests, intensive flight tests and thousands of documents under our supervision”.

The certificate complements Hermes’ compliance with NATO standardization for approving UAS for integration in civilian airspaces. Until now, unmanned aerial vehicles were allowed to fly only in military airspaces or designated air corridors. The Type Certificate changes this reality. The Hermes Starliner is equipped with a wingspan of 17 meters and weighing 1.6 tons. It is capable of up to 36 hours of continuous flight at an altitude of up to 25,000 ft. and can carry an additional 450 kg of electro-optical, thermal, radar and other technical payloads. 

The Hermes Starliner is based on Elbit’s Hermes 900 UAS, and is integrated with advanced civil aviation technological capabilities such as terrain avoidance warning system, automatic take-off and landing in harsh visibility, redundant avionics, sensors and satellite data links and adverse weather capabilities. Elbit already won contracts to supply the Hermes Starliner to the Swiss Federal Department of Defense and the Canadian Ministry of Transportation.

U.S performed first autonomous helicopter flight

The transition of air forces to unmanned aerial vehicles is in the process of accelerating, and is also expanding to aircrafts that were considered so far as unsuitable for the UAV concept. Recently, Lockheed Martin,  Sikorsky and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the completion of an exceptional project: full autonomous flight of the Black Hawk UH-60A  helicopter with no crew onboard. The flight was part of the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program. The helicopter completed 30-minutes of uninhabited flight over the U.S. Army installation at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was operated by the Sikorsky MATRIX™ autonomous flying system. 

The US army is in the process of exploring potential use cases for UAS technologies, including for the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) helicopter. Lead test pilot at Fort Campbell, Benjamin Williamson, says the technology allows pilots to switch from autonomous to piloted control at any point with “the flip of a switch” in the cockpit. “This will allow for reducing work load in a variety of missions, in degraded weather conditions or in threatened environments. The system will automatically detect dangerous situations for the helicopter or to the execution of the mission – dangers that may lead to accidents and thereby saving crew and soldiers lives”.  

Elbit Demonstrated Drone’s Search & Rescue Flights

Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) successfully completed a series of flight demonstrations for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in the UK. The demonstrations were designed to test the capabilities of using a UAS for long-range Search and Rescue civilian missions. Taking place off the West Coast of Wales over the first two weeks of September, the Hermes 900 was able to fly Beyond Line of Sight missions in full alignment with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

In the demonstration, the Hermes 900 equipped with search and rescue specific radar, an Automatic Identification System, EO/IR payload, an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and full satellite communications, was deployed on a range of missions that simulated shore-line rescues, water rescues in dangerous air space and long-distance ship rescues which crossed international air space lines.

With a wingspan of 15m, the 1.2 ton, Hermes 900 is already deployed with more than a dozen advanced customers around the globe providing search, rescue and reconnaissance capabilities. The Company offers extended life-saving capabilities with its recently launched Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol configuration with inflated life-rafts for detection, identification and saving the lives of survivors at sea. It was revealed that this configuration was delivered to an undisclosed customer in South-East Asia.

THOR VTOL Completed Environmental Qualifications

Elbit Systems’ THOR, a multi-rotor Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) mini UAS, successfully completed a series of environmental qualification tests. In October, 2019, Elbit was awarded a $153 million contract to provide a networked multi-layered UAS array to an army in Southeast Asia, including more than 1,000 THOR VTOL units.

The tests demonstrated the capability of THOR to maintain operability in temperatures varying from minus 40ºC up to 65ºC, withstand hard gusting rain and rough vibrations, and resist penetration and damage from blowing sand and dust. THOR VTOL mini-UAS is designed for surveillance and reconnaissance missions over land and at sea.

Electrically propelled, it is capable of carrying up to three kg of payloads and has a flight duration capability of up to 75 minutes of operation, a maximal range of 10 kilometers and a flight ceiling of up to 2,000 ft. With an automatic takeoff and landing capability and autonomous mission flight, it can be used for operation in urban areas with non-line of sight communication, as well as in marine zones.

It will be delivered as part of a networked multi-layered UAS solution, including also scores of Skylark LEX, Skylark 3 and Hermes 450 tactical UAS as well as Universal Ground Control Stations.

THOR VTOL during tests of hard gusting rain
THOR VTOL during tests of hard gusting rain


Elbit to Provide a Networked UAS Array to an Army in Asia

Elbit Systems announced today that it was awarded a contract valued at approximately $153 million to supply an Army of a country in Southeast Asia with a multi-layered array of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The contract will be performed over a 22-month period. Elbit Systems will supply a networked multi-layered UAS solution, including more than a thousand THOR Multi-Rotor Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) mini-UAS, scores of Skylark LEX, Skylark 3 and Hermes 450 tactical UAS and multiple Universal Ground Control Stations.

THOR (photo above) is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) Mini – Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), designed for low altitude surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Built from the ground up, THOR features a real-time HD data link and control software. With an automatic takeoff and landing capability and autonomous mission flight, it can operate in marine zones and urban areas with non-line of sight communication. It carries payload of up to 3 kg, including dual EO/IR lightweight payload with endurance of up to 75 minutes.

Skylark 3 is a tactical mini UAV system (UAS) to the division, brigade and battalion levels. It is fitted for both dismounted and vehicle-based operation. The platform is based on the battle-proven Skylark I-LEX, with over 30 international customers and tens of thousands of operational sorties. It provides service ceiling of 15,000 ft. with range of 100 km and endurance of 6 hours in the air.

Hermes 450 is a mature and combat proven platform with more than 300,000 operational flight hours during the last decade. It can reach a service ceiling of 18,000 ft. and to carry 180 kg payload for missions as long as 17 hours each. Hermes 450 is the backbone of the UK Watchkeeper program.