SINGAPORE-(IDB) : Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) unveiled a new heavy-fuel variant of its Heron medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the Singapore Airshow on 11 February.
Dubbed Super Heron HF (Heavy Fuel), the upgraded platform features a new 200 hp powerplant from Italian company Diesel Jet (part of the Fiat group). Speaking at the public unveiling, IAI President and CEO Joseph Weiss said the switch from standard aviation fuel over to diesel for the Super Heron was done following customer feedback.
"Customers wanted a less flammable fuel for increased safety," he said
As well as improving safety, the new diesel powerplant has afforded the Super Heron HF a number of performance enhancements, including an increased rate of climb (the service ceiling remains the same as the baseline Heron 1 at 30,000 ft), a top speed of 150 kt (compared to 125 kt), and increased maximum take-off weight of 1,450 kg (compared to 1,250 kg). Further to the new engine, the Super Heron HF features triple-redundant avionic systems, a more varied payload set, and winglets (a first for an IAI UAV).
These winglets increase the aircraft's endurance beyond the 45 hours of the baseline Heron 1, although Weiss declined to quantify this particular improvement. "The Super Heron HF is faster, stronger, and smarter," said Weiss.
Having made its maiden flight in October 2013, the Super Heron HF has received "real" interest from both current Heron operators and others. "It is already practically operational," Weiss told reporters.
With the Heron 1 having already amassed 1.1 million flight hours (200,000 of which are operational), IAI will continue to market that aircraft alongside the new Super Heron HF. As Weiss explained: "Not every customer wants a heavy-fuel UAV, and some do not want to be the first customer on a new engine." In addition to the Heron 1 and Super Heron HF, IAI will also offer its larger Heron TP which is in the running to fulfil Germany's MALE UAV requirement (the type's other potential launch customer, France, has since opted for the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-9 Reaper).
As to future developments for the Heron-family, Weiss said that the platform has now reached a level of maturity where further physical changes are no longer needed, and that the company will instead be focusing its efforts on developing new payloads and sensors to enhance its capabilities.
Source : Janes