Indra launches UAV; market growth forecast

May 2, 2012 at 4:40 PM
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MADRID, May 2 (UPI) -- A new unmanned helicopter by Indra of Spain is entering the UAV market following a successful flight test.

The test, which was part of an international conference is Spain, UNVEX'12, coincides with a new report by market research company Frost and Sullivan that forecasts growth in Europe of locally produced unmanned aerial vehicles.

"Europe is facing intense competition in the medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV segment, as more domestic companies are collaborating to develop indigenous equipment," the report said.

"Existing high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs are too expensive for many nations, even while MALE equipment has limited capability. Hence, an opportunity exists for equipment with capabilities between MALE and HALE."

Indra's new UAV is called the Pelicano. It has a maximum takeoff weight of about 329 pounds, a cruise speed of about 56 miles per hour and a flight endurance of 4-6 hours. One control station can control four of the aircraft. It is suitable for intelligence-gathering and surveillance missions.

Indra presented a family of UAV products at this industry event, including the mini-UAV Mantis, the latest version of the Pelicano rotary wing UAV, and its communications, IFF transponder and remote video terminal equipment for a program its developing with Cassidian.

The Pelicano completed a previously established mission with complete autonomy from take-off to landing in the tests and sent in real time the images captured by its payload.

Two variants were presented -- one suitable for use by land-based forces and a naval variant.

"The modifications carried out for the naval configuration include integrating a heavy-fuel engine to comply with the requirements of most navies for safety and logistical reasons," the company said. "Indra has also developed a specific system that will allow the helicopter to automatically approach and land on a ship's deck, even in the worst weather conditions."

The land version of the Pelicano system can be transported on a 4x4 vehicle and deployed in less than half an hour.

Indra said it has also launched a simplified version of the system adapted for the needs of police forces and emergency response teams.

UAVs have been a hot market for aircraft and defense companies as militaries around the world -- led by the United States -- have developed and fielded increasing numbers of the unmanned aerial systems for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions as well at strike missions.

Frost and Sullivan said that, despite projections for a substantial increase in spending on UAVs, reduced military expenditure by the United States is causing uncertainty in the industry, which had $4.55 billion in revenues in 2010 and which is projected to increase to $7.1 billion in 2020.

"The United States will reduce its spending on UAS as it is adequately equipped to meet its needs," said Frost and Sullivan Senior Research Analyst Mahendran Arjunraja.

"Although the country has plans to increase its inventory by more than 35 percent over the next 10 years, market revenues are expected to decline at least till 2020; the U.S. military UAS space is undergoing a transition from procurements to sustainment with most future procurements likely to be limited to upgrades.

"Fortuitously for market participants, this slowdown will be partly off-set by the growth in the European and Asian markets."

The market research company said it expects the UAV market in Europe and Asia to have significant growth and "this is the opportune time for UAV manufacturers and suppliers to explore opportunities in these emerging markets."

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