The 10 longest range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
Endurance is a primary challenge for manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which play a key role in a wide range of military and non-military operations.
Endurance is a primary challenge for manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which play a key role in wide range of military and non-military operations. The Global Observer unmanned aerial system (UAS) developed by AeroVironment has the best endurance and can stay aloft for seven days. Airforce-technology.com lists some of the world's best UAVs ordered by endurance.
The Global Observer is a stratospheric persistent Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) designed to serve in defence and homeland security missions. The UAS can carry communications relay and remote sensing payloads for military or commercial customers.
AeroVironment developed the Global Observer under the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) programme, made its first flight in August 2010. The UAS successfully completed its first hydrogen-powered flight in January 2011.
The UAS is equipped with liquid hydrogen-fuelled propulsion and can loiter in the air for up to one week or 168 hours. The system can operate at high altitudes of up to 65,000ft covering over 280,000 square miles (725,197km2) and carry up to 181kg (400lb) of payload
Orion Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)
Orion is a long-endurance UAS developed by Aurora Flight Sciences, for Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and communication relay missions. Developed for the same programme as the Global Observer, the ORION UAS has been selected as the preferred option by the US Air Force for its JCTD programme.
The Orion UAS successfully completed its first flight in August 2013. It can carry multiple payloads of 2,600lb including full motion video electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, communication relay equipment, radars, Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and Wide Rea Airborne Surveillance (WAAS) equipment. The wing hard-points of Orion can also be mounted with munitions.
The dual Austro Engine AE300 heavy-fuel engines fitted in the Orion UAS ensure a high endurance of five days or over 120 hours with 1,000lb payload. The UAS has a dash speed of 120kt and ferry range of 24,140km. It can fly at a maximum altitude of 30,000ft.
United 40 (Smart Eye 2) UAV
United 40 or Smart Eye 2 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV developed by ADCOM Systems, a company based in the United Arab Emirates. The UAV made its public presence at the Dubai Air Show 2011. The maiden flight was conducted in March 2013.
The UAV can be used to conduct near real-time assessment of combat and battle damage, ISR, communications relay, border surveillance and humanitarian aid missions. The UAV's wings have a high aspect ratio resulting in an ultra-long endurance of 120 hours.
The United 40 can carry 1,000kg of payload including two gyro stabilised platforms, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), and terrain and obstacle avoidance sonar. The four under-wing pods can hold 100kg each. The hybrid propulsion system, equipped with a Rotax 914 engine and an electric motor, provide a maximum speed of 75km/h to 220km/h at an altitude of 22,965ft.
Yabon Smart Eye UAV
The Yabon Smart Eye MALE UAV, built by ADCOM Systems, is intended for strategic and tactical missions. The UAV was displayed first at the International Defence Exhibition & Conference (IDEX) 2009.
The Smart Eye UAV can stay airborne for 120 hours. It can carry 550kg of payload including IR, thermal imager, Laser Designator and Range Finder (LDRF), and EO sensors. Its advanced flight control unit (FCU) ensures autonomous operation.
The propulsion is provided by a primary propeller engine complemented by a secondary jet engine boosting the performance. The UAV has a maximum speed of 222km/h and can reach a maximum altitude of 24,000ft.
The Phantom Eye is a liquid hydrogen-powered high-altitude long endurance (HALE) UAS developed by Boeing Defence, Space & Security. The UAS can be deployed in ISR and communications relay missions.
The Phantom Eye made its first autonomous flight in June 2012 at NASA Dryden. The aircraft was designed to remain airborne for up to four days at 65,000ft while holding a 450lb payload. It can integrate multiple sensor payloads for variety of missions.
The UAS is equipped with hydrogen-powered propulsion system integrating two 2.3L 150hp internal combustion engines and two propellers. The cruise speed of the Phantom Eye is 150kt, while the maximum speed is 200kt.
HERON is a multi-role MALE UAS manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The UAS is operated by over 20 customers for intelligence, surveillance, maritime patrol and other tactical missions.
The HERON UAS can carry multiple sensor payloads such as EO/IR/LRF, Communications Intelligence and Electronic Intelligence (COMINT and ELINT), communications relay and radar systems. It uses direct line of sight data link or Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) with SATCOM to communicate with the ground control station. The mission payload can weigh up to 400kg.
The UAS has an endurance of up to 45 hours based on the payload. It can fly at a maximum speed of 120kt and can reach an altitude of over 30,000ft. The propulsion is provided by a Rotax 914 turbo-charged engine.
The MQ-1 Predator UAS, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, is the most battle-proven unmanned aircraft system in the world. The UAS is in service with the US Air Force, US Navy, US Government, and the Italian Air Force. It was used in combat missions over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.
The Predator has an endurance of 40 hours, and is the first-ever armed UAS capable of delivering precision air-to-surface weapons. It can carry 340kg of multiple payloads including EO/IR video cameras, laser designators, communications relay, SIGINT/ESM system, Lynx multi-mode all-weather radar and Hellfire missiles.
The UAS is controlled from the ground control station through C-Band Line-of-Sight data link and Ku-Band SATCOM. The power-plant consists of a heavily modified Rotax 914 turbo engine providing a maximum air speed of 120kt. The maximum altitude the UAS can reach is 25,000ft.
The Hermes 900 is an advanced multi-role MALE unmanned aircraft system manufactured by Elbit Systems. The UAS is used in persistent intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions.
The Hermes 900 completed its maiden flight in December 2009. It can endure airborne for a maximum of 36 hours. It is in service with the Israeli Air Force (IAF), Chilean Air Force, Colombian Air Force, and Mexican Federal Police.
The UAS can support multiple payload configurations such as EO/IR/Laser Designator, SAR/ground moving target indicating (GMTI) & maritime patrol radar, COMINT, COMMJAM, ELINT, and electronic warfare (EW), hyper-spectral systems, communications relay, wide area surveillance and mapping payloads. It is controlled from Hermes ground control system (GCS) and can fly at a maximum altitude of 30,000ft.
RQ-4 Global Hawk is a HALE UAS produced by Northrop Grumman. The combat proven UAS is in service with the US Air Force and US Navy. The Global Hawk was deployed in more than 15 combat missions and accumulated 350 combat hours during Operations Enduring Freedom, Southern Watch, and Iraqi Freedom. It has a maximum endurance of over 32 hours and a ferry range of 22,780km. It can fly at an altitude of 60,000ft.
The Global Hawk set a new endurance record for operational UAS in a non-stop flight of 33.1 hours at altitudes up to 60,000ft. The UAS supports different configurations or blocks. The initial Block 10 and Block 20 were substituted with latest Block 30 and Block 40 configurations. The Euro Hawk, a derivative of the Block 20 Global Hawk, was also developed by Northrop Grumman and EADS for the German Air Force.
The Block 40 versions integrate multi-platform MP-RTIP active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI). The UAV employs Wideband Ku SATCOM and line-of-sight to communicate with the ground station.
Patroller-R and Patroller-M Patroller-R are two MALE unmanned aerial vehicles in the Patroller range of UAV systems developed by Sagem. The Patroller-R is designed to cater to Air Force missions, while the Patroller-M supports long-endurance maritime surveillance missions.
Patroller-R/M versions have a typical endurance of 20 to 30 hours but endurance can extend to over 30 hours when equipped with single EO/IR payload. The UAVs can support multiple plug-and-play payloads including EO/IR, COMINT, ELINT, SAR, maritime radar (Patroller-M), automatic identification system (AIS) receiver, and wide field-of-view scanners. The two under-wing hard points on the Patroller-R can be fitted with additional fuel tanks or payloads.
The Patroller UAV is controlled by Sperwer Mk.II mission control system employing a direct link in Ku bandwidth (LOS) and a satellite link (BLOS/Satcom). It can reach a maximum altitude of 25,000ft, while flying at speeds of 70kt to 130kt.