EADS, which had competing offers for both the interim UAV program in France and the long-term MALE project, is holding out hope that the political changes may reopen the door for it to participate. Modernizing the existing Harphang system, the EADS-provided equipment based on Israel Aerospace Industries' Heron 1, could be an option instead of the Heron-TP. Some French legislators have also argued Paris should simply acquire General Atomics Reaper unmanned aircraft.
Switzerland is also sorting out UAV plans for its army. The government will conduct a flyoff between the Elbit Systems Hermes 900 and Heron 1, with a type selection due in the first half of 2014 to replace the Ruag Aerospace ADS 95 Ranger, which is reaching the end of its service life. The purchase of six air vehicles and associated equipment is slated to be part of the 2015 armaments spending plan, with a 2017 in-service date.
The Swiss would use the system only for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, with no current plans to arm the UAV. The system will be operated by the Swiss air force, which will be involved in the type selection along with the Swiss armaments agency.
Another area of interest is how countries will field vertical-takeoff-and-landing unmanned air vehicles (VTUAV). The U.K. is seeking an over-the-horizon surveillance capability for the Royal Navy, and France is looking at its long-term needs. Schiebel's S-100 Camcopter has been used heavily during demonstrations, and company CEO Hans Schiebel says, “since we are the only system in the market and the most mature system, we have a very good market position.”
Still, many navies have signaled that the S-100 may be too small for their long-term needs, driving Schiebel to work on a larger system it hopes to be able to deliver next year.
Others have their eye on that segment, too. Saab is working on its Skeldar system and Indra has begun flight tests of its Pelicano unmanned aircraft. The Spanish company plans to complete ship integration work this year. It is targeting the 6-hr.-endurance system for use from frigates and patrol boats.
EADS is betting on its 300-kg. (260-lb.) Tanan VTUAV aimed at both navy and army users. One of its key features is a heavy fuel engine, notes a company official. Flight trials are underway.