France and the UK is to launch a joint technology study to develop a European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) surveillance drone.

Dassault Aviation international director Eric Trappier told DefenseNews that the UK and French authorities are currently financing feasibility studies.

The UK has approved funding for the European MALE study project, while France is expected to follow shortly, according to Trappier.

Dassault and Thales will offer the “systeme de drone MALE” (SDM), based on the Heron TP air vehicle, for the programme.

The SDM will include nine air vehicles and three control units worth about €1bn ($1.20bn).

It will carry a payload including a synthetic aperture radar with a range of 100km, a moving target indicator, secure data link for communications with ground troops and satellite uplink for remote pilot control.

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The firms are expected to deliver the SDM, which capable of handling communication, electronic and signals intelligence missions, in 2015 if a decision is made on the craft by next year.

BAE Systems and Dassault will be partners for the joint European UAV programme, while Thales France and Thales UK will take part in the collaboration.

A decision on the near-term acquisition of the MALE drone is expected in the coming months, according to Trappier.