ANKARA, Turkey — A locally-developed Turkish drone passed a critical flight test, flying with an electro-optical camera and a total payload of 51 kilograms, officials from the drone's manufacturer said.
Officials with privately-owned firm Vestek Savunma said the Karayel drone is ready to enter the Turkish military's inventory.
Vestel has been developing the tactical done since 2005, investing $30 million in the program.
The Karayel is an unmanned air vehicle system designed for aerial observation. The Karayel began test flights in 2009. Remote sensing systems on board are able to detect a target and mark for laser-guided munitions. All phases of the flight, take-off, landing and flight profile are performed autonomously. Its payload bay is configurable for military and civilian applications.
Under a 2011 contract Vestel will procure six aircraft to the Turkish military together with four sets of payload and perform the entire integration work.
Vestel officials said the drone performs better than its original configuration required. The Karayel was designed to perform at a maximum 18,000 feet, a flight duration of 10 hours and carry up to 35 kilograms of payload. After deliveries, it will perform at 22,500 feet and flight duration of 20 hours with a 70 kilogram payload.
"The program aims to minimize Turkey's dependence on foreign drone systems," Vestel Savunma's general director, Aziz Sipahi, told reporters. "The aircraft features maximum local content."
The Karayel's payload includes day and night vision electro-optical cameras, laser distance measurement system and laser guidance and tracking systems. Its payload is designed to also carry ammunitions.