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Australia buys portable UAV landing mat

  |   Jan. 13, 2012 at 8:37 AM
CANBERRA, Australia, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Australia's Department of Defense has bought a portable landing mat for use with unmanned aerial vehicles from manufacturer Faun Trackway USA.

The cost is around $1.1 million.

Faun Trackway USA, based in Washington D.C., said the deal is the first sale of its UAV landing mat and sees a larger market worldwide for the product.

The lightweight UAV Aircraft Landing Mat is designed to provide a smooth landing, regardless of terrain, for any size or weight of UAV and can be deployed rapidly by hand, the company said. To enable the UAV to quickly decelerate when landing, the mats can also be fitted with arrestor gear typically found on aircraft carriers.

Faun Trackway USA was set up by Faun Trackway, the defense division of Faun Zoeller, headquartered in north Wales in the United Kingdom. Faun Zoeller is part of the German owned Kirchhoff group.

Faun Trackway's main business is the design and manufacture of portable aluminium roadways and runways and supplies over 40 armed forces worldwide.

"The mat provides a fast and effective means for deploying and retrieving drones in whatever climate or environment, giving users the potential to dramatically increase flight range and the length of operations as a result," Mike Holdcraft, Faun's Vice President Business Development for North America, said.

"UAVs are typically used on clandestine operations in remote locations and militaries need durable runway infrastructure within flight range. Our UAV landing mat provides a fast and effective means of deploying and retrieving drones in any climate or environment."

Under the contract, Faun is offering associated equipment including lighting systems, painted markings, generators, heat-protective gloves and electric hammer drills.

Faun has been working with Australian consultants Mackay Defense, part of Mackay Consolidated Industries, a major provider of engineered rubber and bonded metal and rubber composite products for the automotive, defense, transport, construction and industrial markets.

The Wales-based Faun business entered the North American market in July 2010 to work with the U.S. Air Force, Faun said. It shipped samples of its aircraft landing mat product for testing by the Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Michigan.

Faun said it's ALM can be used to build temporary airfields in less than 24 hours for military operations or delivering emergency aid in the aftermath of humanitarian disasters.

The ALM was developed originally for the U.K.'s air force for use as runways, taxiways and hard standings by a wide variety of its aircraft. It also makes a landing mat specifically for helicopters.

Apart from the military market, Faun in the United Kingdom also makes municipal waste collection vehicles and has contracts with 29 counties and cities.

In August 2010, Australia announced it had inked a UAV deal worth $158 million for 18 RQ-7B Shadow 200 systems, sourced from the U.S. military, a report in The Australian newspaper said at the time. The Shadow systems are replacing leased Boeing ScanEagle UAVs, Defense Materiel Minister Jason Clare later said.

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