FLIR Systems, a recognised UAV/UAS provider for military and public safety organisations around the world, details its next-generation SkyRanger VTOL UAV - SkyRanger R70 - as an ISTAR platform for missions in the most adverse operational environments typical of the littorals. It is designed to be capable of flying in the maritime domain for extended-range missions. The SkyRanger R70 is a rugged and reliable air vehicle, offering a wide range of payload capabilities with the agility and single-operator deployment footprint of a proven small UAS, according to the company.
The VTOL platform is a "very weather-capable" asset able to "fly in strong winds, with a speed of up to 70km per hour," says FLIR Systems' Phil Shaw. Supporting complex ISTAR, the SkyRanger R70 is described by the company as a "flying supercomputer" with the engine for real-time artificial intelligence (AI) "at the network edge," including object detection, identification and classification. Phil notes that for ISTAR missions, the air vehicle can be fitted with various imaging payloads, including the HDZoom 30 system (delivering up to 30x optimal zoom and 60x enhanced digital zoom for 'eyes-on-target' at distances up to 5km) and the EO/IR Mk-II infrared (IR) sensor that delivers high-fidelity daylight and thermal imagery in a weather-resistant, three-axis stabilised gimbal.
At MILIPOL, FLIR Systems showcases an alternative payload, StormCaster, which is the "ideal payload for littoral combat," Phil Shaw notes. With this sensor, Marines and Special Operations Forces (SOF) will be able to obtain enhanced thermal (IR) imagery at very high resolution. It is interesting to note that the StormCaster payload can add to complex ISTAR missions a face recognition capability by using specialised algorithms. With these technological advances, the StormCaster offers SOF and other maritime/naval units a reduced 'sensor-to-effector cycle'. Phil confirms that the system employs a sophisticated maritime radio link developed by a yet unnamed Norwegian partner. It was designed specifically for maritime and littoral operations.
Alternatively, StormCaster can be carried by tiny robotic vehicles for use in complex near-shore and urban areas.