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By Arie Egozi
The need is obvious and therefore the development effort continues in a slow pace, but it may pick up speed any minute. This will happen when a serious potential customer will be ready to invest the money needed to manufacture a “fly away kit”.
This kit will take the pilots out of the helicopter cockpits and replace them with unmanned systems, a move that would allow additional fuel tanks and payloads, a variety that is limited only by imagination.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) believes in the need of using manned helicopters and turning them into pilotless, autonomous platforms. The engineering effort is continuing with the company’s own funds.
Several years ago a joint venture between IAI and Hindustan Aeronautics limited (HAL) aimed at developing an unmanned version of the Dhruv helicopter, but it was abandoned. But the idea is still in the air.
Last year, there were reports about a plan to use a more advanced helicopter of the Eurocopter EC-145 class that has a fly by wire flight control system.
The sources of this report added that the unmanned helicopter will be designed to meet the R 2 regulations that are aimed at limiting the range and carrying capability of unmanned systems. Israel has not signed the R treaty but adheres to its limitations.
IAI has identified the need for an unmanned helicopter for military use, especially on navy ships. Other potential customers are emergency services that have to operate in danger zones.
The aim is to develop and manufacture a “Fly Away kit” that will enable the simple transformation of an existing manned helicopter, of any size, into an autonomous system that is capable of performing the same missions and more.