COLOGNE, Germany ― The Belgian Navy has finished a weekslong series of test flights with Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER S-100 drone as part of the sea service’s search for new maritime-surveillance and search-and-rescue equipment, the company announced Tuesday.
The test plan, which ran June 21 to July 1, constituted an initial step for Belgian officials to identify “the possibilities of such systems and sensors,” Lt. Cmdr. D. Biermans is quoted as saying in the statement. In particular, officials had an eye on the unmanned copter’s operation in the country’s confined airspace — on land and over water ― and “opportunities for the domain of coastal security and prospects for further developments,” Biermans said.
Belgium sports a relatively straight coastline measuring close to 70 kilometers, roughly equivalent in length to that between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in Florida.
The European nation is joining a growing trend among navies worldwide to employ UAVs to act as the eyes and ears of military and coast guard vessels. Equipped with a variety of sensors, the aircraft can help spot potential threats and help rescue people lost at sea.
“Given the complexity of introducing a [maritime tactical unmanned aircraft system] within the Navy and its impact on the concepts of operation and tactics, this was a first informative step and will be part of a series of tests and experiments with a variety of vehicles and sensors,” Biermans said.
Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER S-100 has performed “thousands” of takeoffs and landings from aboard more than 30 ships by a host of international customers, company spokeswoman Sanna Raza told Defense News. She declined to say what countries’ programs the company is eyeing next, citing confidentiality agreements.
Based in Vienna, Austria, Schiebel plans to focus on integrating next-generation sensors to further expand its portfolio in the areas of intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, according to Raza.