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France chooses Airbus fixed-wing drone for ships

February 16, 2021  - By

French ministry for Armed Forces selects Airbus Survey Copter Aliaca fixed-wing drone systems to equip its ships

Airbus Defence and Space mini UAS subsidiary Survey Copter signed a contract with French DGA Armament general directorate to provide the French Navy with 11 systems, (22 aircraft), of the electrically powered fixed-wing Aliaca maritime version UAS (officially called SMDM / “Systèmes de Mini Drones aériens embarqués pour la Marine” by French authorities), including training and integrated logistic support. First deliveries are expected in 2021.

“We are honored to contribute to the missions of the French Navy which we will support with the highest standards of quality and reliability,” said Nicolas Askamp, head of Survey Copter/Airbus Unmanned Aerial Systems. “This new contract strengthens Survey Copter’s position as a global key player for maritime mini UAS.”

The Aliaca maritime UAS is a high-endurance versatile system allowing up to 3 hours missions over a 50 km (27 Nm) range, perfectly adapted to maritime missions with high gyro stabilized EO/IR payload performances and qualified to operate in severe environmental conditions.

The Aliaca SMDM is catapulted from a ship deck. (Photo: Airbus Defence and Space0

The Aliaca SMDM is catapulted from a ship deck. (Photo: Airbus Defence and Space)

Launched by catapult, the Aliaca maritime UAS concludes its flight by landing automatically using a dedicated net landing solution. With a length of 2,2m and a wingspan of 3,6m for a maximum take-off weight of 16 kg., the Aliaca maritime UAS benefits from a powerful yet silent electric motor. The system can be deployed easily and rapidly in less than 15 minutes by 2 operators only.

Similarly, the user-friendly ground control station enables the operator to constantly monitor the automatic flight of the UAS while receiving in real-time day and night images and AIS (Automatic Identification System) data gathered by its on-board sensors.

It is designed to conduct several types of missions around the ships, including increasing the understanding of the tactical situation, control of illegal operations at sea, search-and-rescue, traffic monitoring, pollution detection, tracking of any suspicious behavior in the ship environment and coastal surveillance.

This light on-board aerial solution gives the opportunity to vessels, traditionally not equipped with aerial assets, to enhance their tactical ISR capabilities, support decision making and reactivity in operations.

The Aliaca maritime UAS can easily be integrated on board any ships, with or without helicopter landing-deck, and its small logistic footprint enables operations and storage on board smaller sized ships. Its integration does not require heavy on-board modification nor storage of specific fuel.

The result of 10 years of R&D investments and on-board experimentations, SURVEY Copter’s off-the-shelf Aliaca maritime UAS is a robust and resistant system to the corrosive maritime environment, an adapted solution to the electromagnetic constraints on board, and benefits from an efficient net recovery system, fully automated, meaning that no human action is required during the recovery phase.

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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