Paris Air Show and kamikaze UAVs

June 23, 2023  - By
Air Mobility Event Illustration. (Image: Paris Air Show)

Air Mobility Event Illustration. (Image: Paris Air Show)

The Paris Air Show

The Paris Air Show rolls out this week, accompanied this year by several urban air mobility (UAM) companies, including Eve Air Mobility with a cabin mock-up of its eVTOL, and demonstrations of its UAM software.

Eve also announced ahead of the show that United Airlines, its major partner, is moving forward with route and infrastructure planning in San Francisco — where such factors as the size of the city and high traffic volume cry out for mobility alternatives.

Eve UAM. (Image: Eve press release)

Eve UAM. (Image: Eve press release)

Emerging as a start-up from within the Brazilian aircraft company Embraer, Eve was eventually floated in 2022 through an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. Given the relationship with Embraer, Eve (in particular, United and other Eve customers) stand to gain access to the worldwide maintenance, support, parts and repair organization that Embraer has developed to support its own passenger fleet of thousands of aircraft. An enviable solution for any current or future purchaser of Eve vehicles — this probably has something to do with their huge order backlog for 2,770 vehicles. All that is required now is the full-scale assembly, ground and flight test, verification and certification of the Eve air mobility aircraft — currently forecast to enable a 2026 entry into service.

Additionally, other UAM companies will be present in a special show exhibit, the “Air Mobility Event,” in Hall 5 in Paris.

Is Ukraine winning the UAV war with Russia?

This is not at all clear, as both sides throw at each other many different UAVs in various configurations with different missions. We tend to only see the Ukraine side of the picture, given that Russia does not generally document its successes in the media.

However, recent news indicates that Moscow is importing Iranian UAV technology to bare in its war with Ukraine. It seems that Iran has been supplying complete kamikaze attack UAVs and may also be assisting with materials to set up an assembly plant near Moscow. Potential one-way attack UAVs include the HESA Shahed 136/Geran-2, the new MERAJ-523 which can carry a 50 kg warhead, and the Mohajer-6 reconnaissance/attack drone.

Last week, Russia unleashed a volley of about 44 UAVs on the capital Kyiv, thought to be Shahed 136 kamikaze UAVs. Ukrainian defenses brought down the majority, but there were still a number of casualties. These attacks on the center of Kyiv are said to have intensified during the last two months — the UAVs are cheap, long range, and carry significant ordinance.

Mohajer-6. (Image: courtesy of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine)

Mohajer-6. (Image: courtesy of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine)

The UK is reported to have called Iran’s actions in support of Russia contrary to the nuclear agreements reached between Iran and the European Union in October 2022, which prohibit the supply of any military aid to Russia by Iran.

Not to be left behind, India has brought its own kamikaze UAV online

The ALS-50 loitering munition, built by the Mumbai Tata group, was recently inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) for use against targets on the ground (i.e., missile batteries) and on the sea (i.e., ships).

With an apparent range of 1,000 km (62 miles) and a payload of 25 kg (55 lb), the Indian-produced UAV will replace more expensive UAVs, which India has imported from Poland and elsewhere.

With the war in Ukraine on the mind of all countries near the conflict, it is clear that many may take on defense strategies similar to those that have been used by both Russia and Ukraine.

UAV news summed up

So, as the International Paris Air Show, previously a major military exhibition and air show, begins to welcome and feature the coming age of UAM, it is good to see that there are several independent programs that plan to show their wares. Air-taxi services are still some way off from being a reality, as there are still heavy, lengthy investments to be made in building and qualifying these unmanned/manned aircraft for passenger use. Hopefully, however, several of the contenders will make it to the finish line and fulfill the promises made for UAM.

Meanwhile, as the war in Ukraine plods along, taking lives and destroying property, it is good that both sides have decided that UAVs should be the way to proceed. UAVs, after all, are relatively small and the degree of destruction they can cause is limited. Still, this is not very comforting for people on both sides as they run from the sound of two-stroke and four-stroke engines descending from on high, carrying explosive charges that will kill and maim. Additionally, as the West arms Ukraine with defensive materials, it’s not surprising that Russia is seeking weapons from allies, wherever it can find them.

About the Author: Tony Murfin

Tony Murfin is managing consultant for GNSS Aerospace LLC, Florida. Murfin provides business development consulting services to companies involved in GNSS products and markets, and writes for GPS World as the OEM Professional contributing editor. Previously, Murfin worked for NovAtel Inc. in Calgary, Canada, as vice president of Business Development; for CMC Electronics in Montreal, Canada, as business development manager, product manager, software manger and software engineer; for CAE in Montreal as simulation software engineer; and for BAe in Warton, UK, as senior avionics engineer. Murfin has a B.Sc. from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK, and is a UK Chartered Engineer (CEng MIET).