ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — South Africa’s Paramount Group unveiled on Monday a long-range swarming UAV system during the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in the United Arab Emirates.
The N-Raven is being pitched as a way to bolster tactical situational awareness and precision strike capabilities while minimizing personnel risk and collateral damage. The group’s subsidiary Paramount Advanced Technologies is taking the lead on the drone swarm technology.
John Craig, the CEO of Paramount Group’s Land Systems division, told Defense News that it is not revealing a new armored vehicle at IDEX this year. The company brought its Mbombe 4 to IDEX in 2019, when it also announced that the UAE was the first customer for the armored vehicle.
“This year at IDEX we are unveiling, amongst others, our next-generation autonomous aerial vehicles, offering swarming technology solutions. Paramount has a long legacy of developing autonomous systems and it therefore makes sense to expand our offering into this rapidly-developing field,” Craig wrote in an email. “Autonomous systems are a key aspect of IDEX this year and as a global technology and innovation group it should come as no surprise that we are having a strong presence in Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies.”
The N-Raven was designed for technology transfer and portable manufacturing within partner countries, according to Paramount Group. It can be launched from land-, air- and sea-based platforms, and can target both static and moving targets.
The 41-kilogram UAV operates with a low signature and has a cruise speed of about 180 kph. It also has an approximately 2-hour endurance. The system can be equipped with sensors to detect, identify, locate and report on targets, and it can carry 10-15-kilogram payloads for up to 250 kilometers.
A field simulator is also on offer, allowing N-Raven operators to rehearse missions. The UAV’s recording capabilities also benefit debrief processes.
“The drone swarm capabilities are the next evolution of robotic warfare,” noted Jean-Marc Rickli, the head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy think tank. “Their advantage is their ability of saturating the adversary’s defense system. They are highly effective and comparatively cheap and thus are very appealing for state and nonstate actors.”
He highlighted the attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco facility in September 2019 as proof of the effective capability.
“No country has for now an effective system to counter drone swarms, as effective counter-swarms systems require the combination of different sensors and effectors that are spread across different systems,” Rickli told Defense News. “Also, new doctrines are needed. As drones become cheaper, smarter and more autonomous, defending against drone swarms becomes more difficult.”
In other words, he explained, the offensive capability has a clear advantage over any defensive countermeasures.
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.