SINGAPORE — UMS Skeldar is on course to make its first sale of a Saab-developed unmanned rotary wing vehicle this year, said executives of the Swiss-based company at the Singapore Airshow.
"We are close to our first Skeldar V200 sale. It's definitely going to be this year. It's a southeast Asian customer who requires it for a mix of maritime and land-based missions," said George Duncan, UMS Skeldar's Asian sales chief.
In a separate development, the company is due to start deliveries of its F-330 fixed wing unmanned vehicle to the Indonesian Army in the next few days.
UMS Skeldar was formed last December when small UAV unmanned air vehicle builder UMS joined forces with defense industry giant Saab to form an alliance bringing together the Swedish company’s Skeldar unmanned helicopter program with its Swiss partners existing fixed- and rotary-wing line-up.
Saab transferred Skeldar technology and a small team of engineers in a deal that gives it a 47 percent holding in UMS Skeldar.
UMS has pitched two fixed-wing remotely piloted vehicles and its own smaller rotary-wing product into the new venture which has facilities in Switzerland and Sweden and expects sales of SwF 30 million Swiss francs (US $30.1 million) this year.
The Swedish submarine and fighter company developed the Skeldar over a number of years but was never able to quite land a permanent contract to deliver vehicles, although it did deploy operationally in a deal to support the Spanish Navy in the Gulf of Aden starting in 2013.
Duncan said taking Skeldar out of Saab and putting it into the joint venture has made it a vastly more competitive proposition
"We have ended up with a huge company product but smaller company overhead. We have been able to make fantastic price efficiencies on the aircraft," he said.
David Willems, UMS Skeldar's head of business development, said the tie-up with a company of Saab's standing brought major benefits.
"For the size of the company, having Saab as a major shareholder has given us huge backing in terms of their logistical footprint. They really want us to make this work and it gives the company huge confidence going to the market with our products," said Willems.
While the company steps up efforts to sell the Skeldar, it's business as usual on the fixed-wing side of the house
The first of three F-330 machines are set for delivery to the Indonesian Army within days and the remaining two vehicles will be handed over in the next couple of months, said Duncan.
Training starts at the end of the month on a vehicle that has four-hour plus endurance and can carry payloads like an EO/IR camera, sigint and elint systems and a multi/hyper spectral camera.
The Army is looking primarily for border control and border security and will also start trials patrolling its huge coastline and territorial waters. with the machines.
"They will start with smaller aircraft like the F-330 and then when the time is right for them then I think they look for something bigger like the F-720, which has a 12-hour or more endurance," said Willems.
"They are already talking about much larger numbers. They have a very large appetite for the future. What matters for the moment is to deliver a good package, satisfy the client and then grow with them," he said.
The company is also active on the training front. It recently completed a deal with the Singapore police, teaching senior officers and others how to best exploit remotely piloted vehicles.
"The contract is finished, they want more, and we are hopeful to progress with that this year," said Duncan.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.