The Orbiter 4 small tactical UAV is manufactured by Aeronautics Group. Image courtesy of Rafael Advanced Defense System.
The Orbiter 4 is mainly intended to be used for maritime- and land-based ISTAR operations. Image courtesy of Rafael Advanced Defense System.
The Orbiter 4 UAV is part of Aeronautics’ portfolio of unmanned systems.

The Orbiter 4 small tactical unmanned aerial system (UAS) is an advanced multi-mission platform manufactured by Israel-based drone specialist Aeronautics Group. It offers improved carrier, mission, and flight endurance capabilities. The UAS is suitable for both maritime and land operations.

Indian armoured solutions provider Mahindra Defence signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Aeornautics to collaborate on the manufacturing of naval shipborne unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in April 2018. The companies will offer the maritime version of the Orbiter 4 UAS for the Indian Navy.

The Orbiter 4 drone was presented at Defexpo India, a flagship biennial event of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India, held in Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh in February 2020. It was also displayed at the IDEX 2021 international defence exhibition and conference in Abu Dhabi in February 2021.

Orbiter 4 design and features

Orbiter 4 platform has a high degree of versatility. It is based on the aerodynamic structure and features of the Orbiter 3 small tactical UAS. The open architecture of the unmanned system allows it to be customised as per the different mission requirements of the customers.

The unmanned platform has a wingspan of 5.4m and a maximum take-off weight of 50kg. The payload carrying capacity of the drone is 12kg. The lightweight UAV with low silhouette and silent flight characteristics can be used as a covert platform in land and maritime unmanned defence applications.

Orbiter 4 is a runway-free aircraft that can be transported easily. It can carry multiple payloads and leaves a low logistical footprint. The easy-to-operate platform can be manned by a crew of three.

It has six different autonomous flight modes and can operate in harsh weathers and under cloud-base.

The vehicle can be assembled easily and has a quick turnaround time. It features command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) capabilities and provides real-time intelligence.

The drone design supports integration with maritime vessels without the requirement for a flight deck.

Launch and recovery

The UAV has automatic take-off and recovery capabilities. It can be launched with the help of a catapult launcher and landed safely with its precision landing capability.

The recovery can be performed using a unique, foldable, and compact net.

Orbiter 4 small tactical UAV mission capabilities

Maritime applications of the platform include exclusive economic zone (EEZ) security, self-defence for ship, security cover for offshore facilities. It can also be used for battle damage assessment (BDA) as well as target acquisition for precision-guided weapons.

Equipped with automatic identification system, the UAS can also be used for electronic intelligence (ELINT) gathering, electronic warfare, communication relay, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) in land and maritime domains, and border patrol and reconnaissance.

The Orbiter system is also suitable for search and rescue, securing strategics assets, emergency response, and reconnaissance in deep sea and coastal waters.

Orbiter 4 electronic payload

Orbiter 4 can be equipped with a range of payloads including maritime patrol radar (MPR), satellite communication, cellular interception sensor, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and advanced electro-optic payload.

The electro-optic payload includes photogrammetric mapping (HDLite), and light detection and ranging scanner (LIDAR). It enables automatic video tracking, video motion detection, digital zoom and upper resolution, video mosaic composition, and D-Roll and image stabilisation.

A stabilised triple sensor with laser designation is fitted on the drone for day and night operational capabilities.

Microlite electro-optic system

The Orbiter platform is integrated with Microlite, an advanced electro-optic system manufactured by Israeli defence technology company RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems. The Microlite sensor is a lightweight, compact system designed for wide-area persistent surveillance missions. It enables ISTAR capabilities for manned aircraft, UAVs, aerostats, and observation balloons.

The system’s gimballed-turret design enables horizon-to-horizon field of regard. An onboard data processing capability and storage unit for advanced image processing in real-time are also incorporated in the sensor. The Microlite is also equipped with an advanced suite of cyber defence hardware and software.

The area under consideration for monitoring is persistently revisited to conduct high-resolution tracking and investigation of multiple targets simultaneously.

Engine and performance

Orbiter 4 drone is powered by a fuel-based spark ignition (SI) engine with multi-fuel flexibility. It can reach a maximum altitude of 18,000ft and provides a flight endurance of up to 24 hours. The UAS can achieve a maximum speed of 129.6km/h.