ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Emirati defense conglomerate Edge Group unveiled on Sunday four multirotor loitering munitions, sometimes called kamikaze drones, during the first day of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference held in the United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi.
“QX is a family of four different aircraft. The first one is the QX-1 micro-UAV; the quadcopter basically carries a payload of 0.5 kilograms and the platform weighs 3 kilograms. The QX-2 mini-UAV is a much bigger platform and can carry a 1.5-kilogram payload,” Mohamed Abdullah Al Nuaimi, the senior business development manager with the manufacturer, told Defense News.
“The QX-3 small UAV can carry basically up to four guided munitions of total weight of 5 kilograms; and the QX-4, which is a fixed-wing, vertical-takeoff-and-landing UAV with a 5-kilogram payload, can fly for 90 minutes,” he added.
The locally made precision-guided systems were produced by Edge subsidiary Adasi, and they use artificial intelligence software for targeting and strike missions, according to a news release. The drones are not intended for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, but rather to destroy targets.
“The platforms are unique due to their capability to identify targets through electro-optics mounted on each one of them. The technology used is to capture all the information regarding the target through those electro-optics, then get transferred toward specialized software to the guided munition, which by itself has electro-optics mounted on top to guide the steering of the munition toward the target,” Al Nuaimi said.
Al Nuaimi would not specify the price tag of the QX systems, but he did describe them as cost competitive on the international market.
Jean-Marc Rickli, the head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy think tank, pointed out that short-range, tactical loitering munitions such as quadcopters with increasingly advanced algorithms are already accessible to both state and nonstate actors.
“The complexity of the weapon systems depends on its assigned roles, the level of autonomy and the speed of the weapon. A long-range, fast loitering munition that is able to make autonomous attack decisions requires advanced technology that few countries have,” Rickli told Defense News.
What would make a loitering munition stand out is facial recognition technology — something the QX family does not have.
What other drones were on display?
Edge also showed off its Shadow 50 and Shadow 25 drones, its Rash 2 gliding munition kit, and new variants of the RW-24.
Shadow 50 can carry a payload of 50 kilograms; that’s double the capacity of its counterpart, the Shadow 25. These UAVs come with global navigation systems and can fly using video navigation systems in GPS-denied environments.
The Rash 2 is a fixed-wing guidance kit for mortars and other in-house designed payloads. It’s capable of gliding in flight and directing munitions to ground targets. The UAE Armed Forces has placed an order for the platform under a 55 million dirham (U.S. $15 million) deal.
Three new additions of the RW-24 range were also launched at IDEX. The newly unveiled RW-24 Seeker is equipped with a thermal automatic seeker to provide accuracy of engagement for targeting moving threats. It can also operate in GPS-denied environments. The RW-24 Extended Warhead and RW-24 Extended Range variants increase the payload capacity from 8 kilograms to 13 kilograms, respectively, enabling the drones to carry additional fuel or increase the size of onboard munitions.
Agnes Helou is a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.