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Argentine companies Cicaré Helicópteros, Marinelli and INVAP had developed a new rotary-winged unmanned aerial system (RUAS), the ASTERI RUAS 160, aimed at defence, security and agricultural applications, among others.

Development was started in 2017 by Marinelli and Cicaré, the former focusing on the autonomous control system and the latter on design of the helicopter itself. In 2019, the team was enlarged with the addition of INVAP, which has greater experience with autonomous vehicles, to develop a definitive final version. The first prototype ASTERI RUAS 160 was exhibited for the first time at the Expoagro 2020 agriculture fair in San Nicolás, Buenos Aires province, in March.

INVAP provides the flight software, telemetry, sensors and ground control station. When configured for search and rescue missions, the platform will be considerably different – the design contemplates adaptation for various mission equipment sets, according to the customer’s specific requirements.

The aircraft features 3.2m-diameter contra-rotating rotors and is powered by a 40hp engine, which makes it possible to reach a speed of 150km/h. With an empty weight of 80kg and a maximum take-off weight of 160, the usable payload is a further 80kg.

While the helicopter is currently at a prototype stage, the three companies aim to have a final version on the market by next year. They also expect the price point to sit between 40-50 % of other electrically- powered RUAS currently available and to feature greater endurance.

ASTERI has the ability to return to the starting point once it detects flight range (amount of fuel and flight hours),” commented Juan Manuel Cicaré, president of Cicaré Helicópteros. Nicolás Marinelli, owner of Marinelli, explains this is anticipated as being the smallest in a of RUAS, as there are plans for larger airframes for the SAR, patrol and crop-spraying roles.

Florencia Lucero Heguy in Buenos Aires for MON

Currently at the prototype stage, the ASTERI RUAS 160 experimental aircraft is likely to be the smallest member of a growing family of RUAS aimed at defence, security and agricultural missions. (Photos via the author)

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