FARNBOROUGH, England — UMS Skeldar has launched a new version of its flagship unmanned helicopter that has a longer-endurance capability, as the company continues its aggressive campaign to promote the system for a number of ongoing international naval requirements.
The Skeldar V-200B has a five-hour endurance due to a 10-kilogram weight reduction in the aircraft, something the company claims will up its appeal because of the increased performance and reliability. The new model is now the baseline offering that UMS Skeldar will pitch to customers.
UMS Skeldar is a joint venture between Saab and UMS that formed in 2015 to primarily promote the V-200, a UAV that had previously struggled to secure customers despite years of development and marketing by Saab.
“It [the V-200B] is almost a completely new aircraft — a new build since the Saab days,” David Willems, head of business development at the company, told Defense News.
The "B" model is the result of work carried out under the partnership, he added, and features new GPS antennas and software in addition to the weight decrease, as well as better fuel consumption due to engine modifications.
Endurance can be increased, or an extra 10 kilograms of payload can be carried by Skeldar, Willems said.
Notably, the way the V-200B has been developed will allow for the drone’s industrialization, moving from one-off manufacture, as was the case with the previous variant, to serial production.
The Asia-Pacific region is the most active market for Skeldar, Willems says. The company is seeing potential in South Korea, and it has been specifically targeting Australia for some time now, where it is expanding its industrial base to potentially support work transfer.
“It is a very interesting time there, and we are building a small Australia ecosystem,” he said.
Australia is acquiring a number of types of unmanned systems under ongoing programs, seeking systems such as ship-based UAVs under its Project Sea 129 Phase 5 effort, supporting its aim to operate a comprehensive fleet of unmanned aircraft that includes the Insitu ScanEagle and Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton.
Skeldar is most often pitched against Schiebel’s unmanned Camcopter helo, a system that has seen more commercial success in both the military and civil markets, although UMS Skeldar has been demonstrably active in marketing its system since the joint venture was formed.
A heavy-fuel variant of Camcopter has been undergoing trials in Australia under work that will act as risk-reduction efforts for the Project Sea 129 Phase 5 program.
UMS is also active in Germany where it is teaming with ESG to pitch to the Navy for similar requirements to Australia. The company has delivered Skeldar to Indonesia, which has used it to assess operating a UAV of this type, although little news on the outcome of that work has been revealed by either the Indonesian government or the company.