The German submarine community is known for its innovation. One of the latest developments, proposed by hoistable mast builder Gabler and mini-UAV specialist EMT Penzberg, is Volans: a concept that allows a submarine at persicope depth to launch and operate up to three mini-UAVs.
The combined July/August issue of Defense Technology International (DTI) has an article on novel UAV concepts from Germany, including Volans. In the article, EMT development engineer Martin Schwager says that the UAV used by Volans will be a modified version of the Aladin hand-launched system in use by Dutch and German troops in Afghanistan.
Volans entails installing a pressure tank on top of a hoistable mast, with the tank being configured to house an automatically-deployable UAV launching system plus up to three mini-UAVs. The entire submarine would remain submerged at PD (periscope depth, typically 12-25 meters below the surface depending on the type of boat). However, the top of the mast would briefly break the surface to deploy the launching system, bring up a UAV and catapult it into the air.
Sensor imagery from the UAV in flight can be received in real-time by an antenna installed on the boat’s communications mast (in this mode, the UAV has to stay within 30 km. of the boat in order to maintain line of sight), or at a prearranged time when recorded data can be transmitted after the UAV returns from the target area.
One operational scenario for which the concept can be used is to acquire real-time imagery of a coastal target for the benefit of a special forces team on board the submarine, prior to their insertion ashore.
Recovery of the UAV cannot be done by the submarine unless the threat level is sufficiently benign for the boat to be able to surface. “Normally, the UAV would either be destroyed by crashing it into the ground, or would be recovered by friendly forces ashore,” says Christian Viertel, R&D engineer at Gabler.The Volans launch system and modified Aladin UAV (one wing folded, the other extended for demonstration purposes) seen on display at the recent ILA show in Berlin. Photos: Joris Janssen Lok
Volans is part of a wider Gabler concept known as Triple-M, in which the pressure tank mast is used for a variety of payloads, including a Rheinmetall RMK 30 recoilles medium-caliber gun, an FS-Antennentechnik antenna array for electronic or communications intelligence, or the Volans mini-UAV system.
So far, the two companies have performed in-factory tests with the Triple-M pressure tank and the UAV launch system; and tests outside involving a live launch of an Aladin UAV from a launch ramp representative of the one to be used by Volans.