Rheinmetall Airborne Systems (RAS) is unveiling a new tactical unmanned aircraft design at ILA 2012 - the X1-Ocean, "a hybrid airborne system that combines the capabilities of a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft".
RAS is a joint venture between Germany's Rheinmetall Defence and EADS defense company Cassidian, and has teamed up with Swiss UAV - a manufacturer of small rotary-wing unmanned aircraft - to produce the new design. Swiss UAV already cooperates with Saab on its Skeldar VTOL UAV.
RAS already produces KZO rocket-launched small tactical UAV. The X1-Ocean is a compound helicopter, with twin rotors mounted at the tips of the wing and a pusher propeller. Such a configuration provides VTOL capability for shipborne operation with increased speed and range compared with a conventional unmanned helicopter.
After falling behind the US in the development of UAVs, Europe is making a push to catch up and the relatively undeveloped VTOL market is an area of focus. AgustaWestland displayed its prototype Solo optionally piloted helicopter at the MSPO show in Poland last week, The Solo is based on subsidiary PZL-Swidnik's SW-4 single-turbine light helicopter.