Inside Unmanned Systems

JUN-JUL 2019

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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58   June/July 2019 unmanned systems inside called the Archangel," said Zaloga. Made by IOMAX, of Mooresville, North Carolina, the aircraft is based on a crop duster, he said. But the version the UAE purchased was an "armed ISR platform that basically mimics the performance of the Reaper UAS system, but it's piloted." IOMAX sold the UAE a dozen Archangels, which were used quite extensively in combat in Yemen, he said. "It highlights one of the issues in this whole contro- versy about the sale of UAS's," Zaloga added. "…The State Department shows no reluctance to allowing U.S. com- panies to sell armed aircraft to various allied countries that have essentially the same combat capabilities as an armed UAS. But when it comes to armed UAS there is much stronger resistance." Northrop Grumman is taking advantage of that real- ity with its Firebird aircraft. The Firebird can be convert- ed from manned to unmanned operations in a matter of hours, enabling it to be considered an aircraft when it comes to export rules. From an export point of view, explained Zaloga, "it will only be a UAS if it's sold that way." "[An optionally piloted aircraft] will probably be of- Steve Zaloga, senior analyst, Teal Group Corporation " YOU NAME A CATEGORY OF MILITARY UAS, THEY ARE OFFERING UAS AND IT'S NOT A SINGLE AIRFRAME; IT'S MULTIPLE, DIFFERENT COMPANIES, DIFFERENT CHINESE AEROSPACE COMPANIES, ALL TRYING TO GET INTO THE MARKET." Countries unable to buy military UAS have sometimes chosen manned aircraft with similar capabilities, like the IOMAX Archangel, as an alternative. „ fered in several packages," Zaloga added. "One of the packages would be simply as a piloted aircraft and not include a remote f light control system—you know, a ground-based control system to allow it to be operated like a UAS. It would basically only have f light controls that require a pilot." The fact the aircraft is built to f ly unmanned sug- gests a customer could seek approval down the line for UAS operations and then buy the hardware to make the conversion. "It'll have the servos and all the other aspects of its f light control system that would allow it to be quickly converted over to a UAS if the requirement existed or if the sale had been approved by the United States. So I think that that's an interesting technical offshoot of what we saw happen because of the sales restrictions," said Zaloga. Northrop isn't the only firm examining optionally manned design, Zaloga noted. "There's a couple of cur- rent companies right now looking at it [the concept] and they have test-f lown aircraft that can be f lown either as a UAS or as a piloted aircraft." Northrop has taken other steps to make the Firebird export-friendly, said Chappel. It has no exotic materials; it has a Lycoming engine like those found in general avia- tion aircraft and only off-the-shelf commercial systems. Northrop is also working to build a network of commer- cial sensor suppliers that can add capability without add- ing export complications. Chappel said his firm wants to develop a large ecosystem of commercial suppliers to enable Northrop to be able to ex- tend its mission offerings. Depending on location and cus- tomer mission, he said, "having a full set and knowledge of different sensing capabilities will allow us to also sell some- thing that's better matched to whatever a customer needs." As for potential clients, Chappel is thinking f lexibly too. "So, for example, if we went to a country that perhaps didn't have as developed of an aerospace industry but they wanted to get into that type of capability we would absolutely…be looking to establish partners and setting them up to be able to do that." And where might that be? Chappel suggested the Baltic States or Poland might find the Firebird appeal- ing, as would some nations in the Pacific. He cited key al- lies like Australia, Japan and Korea, and also Singapore, Indonesia. Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. "They're all surrounded by water—and it's a very interesting part of the world," said Chappel, "and they have multiple missions to be able to monitor but un- doubtedly not big budgets. So they need to have afford- able f lexibility. So when we think about it, we're talking in those terms." Photo courtesy of IOMAX. WASHINGTON VIEW by DEE ANN DIVIS

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