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France has selected the maritime version of the ALIACA electrically-powered UAS from Airbus subsidiary Survey Copter to fulfil the Navy’s Systèmes de Mini Drones aériens embarqués pour la Marine (SMDM) shipborne mini-UAS requirement, Airbus announced on 11 February.

A total of 11 systems (each of two UAV) is required and the first deliveries are anticipated for later this year. “This new contract strengthens Survey Copter’s position as a global key player for maritime mini UAS,” commented Nicolas Askamp, Head of Survey Copter/Airbus Unmanned Aerial Systems.

ALIACA is a high-endurance, versatile system, allowing missions of up to three hours at ranges up to 50km and is perfectly adapted to maritime missions, featuring a large gyro-stabilized EO/IR payload and able to operate in severe environmental conditions. Launched by catapult, ALIACA lands automatically, using a dedicated net landing solution. With a length of 2.2m, a wingspan of 3.6m and a maximum take-off weight of 16kg, ALIACA benefits from a powerful yet silent electric motor. The system can be deployed easily and rapidly, by only two operators, in less than 15 minutes.

A user-friendly ground control station enables the operator to constantly monitor the UAS in flight, while receiving day and night images and AIS data gathered by its on-board sensors in real-time. ALIACA is designed to conduct multiple missions, including increasing tactical situational awareness, countering illegal operations at sea, search-and-rescue, traffic monitoring, pollution detection, tracking of suspicious behaviour and coastal surveillance.

This light on-board aerial solution offers an opportunity for vessels not traditionally equipped with airborne assets to enhance their tactical ISR capabilities, support decision-making and increase operational responsiveness. ALIACA can be easily integrated on any vessel, with or without a helicopter landing-deck, and its small logistic footprint enables operations and storage on board smaller sized ships. Its integration does not require heavy on-board modification nor storage of specific fuel.

The result of 10 years’ R&D investments and on-board experimentation, Survey Copter’s off the shelf maritime ALIACA is a robust system, resistant to the corrosive maritime environment, and represents a solution adapted to the electro-magnetic constraints of surface vessels. It benefits from an efficient and fully-automated net recovery system, meaning that no human intervention is required during the recovery phase.

The catapault-launched ALIACA SDSM. (Photo: Airbus)

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