MILAN, Italy — Greece is working to ramp up its domestic drone industry, which has lagged behind other European countries, with the development of the locally made Archytas aircraft.
Officials presented the vertical-takeoff-and-landing drone for the first time at the International Exhibition of Thessaloniki earlier this month. The fixed-wing aircraft is a joint production between Hellenic Aerospace Industry and the Aristotle, Thessaly and Democritus universities. Representatives said the Archytas unveiling was meant to be the first in a line of upcoming products coming out of the partnership.
Billed as a multipurpose drone, Archytas is capable of operating in both rescue and military operations. According to information provided by Hellenic Aerospace Industry, it can provide situational awareness along the land and sea borders of Greece, monitor ground vehicles, accompany frigates, and detect unmanned marine vehicles moving at high speeds.
Nikos Koklas, director of research and design at Hellenic Aerospace Industry, told Defense News the drone was designed to “perform these missions with minimal modifications, which can occur on the spot in the field.” The aircraft’s “excellent surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities manifest a perfect fit for the protection of Greek territory and islands alike,” he added.
The surveillance mission is of particular importance to Greece. Locked in a historic rivalry with Turkey, itself a drone powerhouse, the rhetoric between Athens and Ankara has sharpened recently. The two NATO members have been in disagreement for years over airspace and territorial claims in and above the Aegean Sea.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan implied earlier this month that his country could use military action against its neighbor, stating “Turkey could come all of a sudden one night.”
Depending on the selected payload, Koklas said, the Archytas can cover up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) at a cruise speed of 120 kph (75 mph) and can fly for four consecutive hours. While the UAV is designed to operate without armament, users can modify it to carry light weaponry — a maximum of 14 kilograms (31 pounds).
Its vertical-takeoff-and-landing capability is provided by four electric propellers on the longitudinal beam, which links the wings to the negative-V tail. The system is further integrated with four struts to maximize flight durability by generating minimal drag. This allows the drone to reach very remote locations while also enabling it to land on the decks of large vessels without needing a runway, according to the manufacturer.
After unveiling the demonstrator prototype, an Archytas drone is to perform its first flight in late October 2022. The first preproduction system is expected to be integrated and manufactured by December 2023, with a first flight by March 2024. The first customers of the Archytas will be the Hellenic Armed Forces as well as other Greek civil protection agencies.
When asked about international interest in Archytas, Koklas stated that “it had already sparked the attention of several other countries besides Greece, formulating an outstanding commercial prospect.”
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.