Kathy Gibson reports from the Maritime and Coastal Security conference in Cape Town – A vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial surveillance (VTOL UAS) system will help to address many of the issues raised by naval personnel about the difficulties in addressing piracy and sea crime in African waters.

Commander Thomas Ljungqvist, operations analyst at SAAB Aeronautics, Sweden, points out that there are a number of reasons why an unmanned craft fits the need.

There is the ability to “triple D”, Ljungqvist says. This stands for dull – it can get boring out there; dangerous – it can operate in any threat environment; and dirty – it can operate in any environment.

The Martime VTOL UAS can provide situational awareness beyond the horizon, it provides realtime imager and intelligence, increase the range on the AIS; provides identification with high confidence and provides realtime documentation of events.

In an operational environment, the area is usually large and difficult to cover with conventional tools because sensor ranges are too short. In addition, rough weather conditions hamper efforts.

IN this environment, a VTOL UAS can provide realtime imagery immediately, with confident identification.

Ljungqvist says the craft enhances the ship’s capabilities. It aids in personnel survivability and safety, offering fast and sae penetration of enemy lines.

A UAV increases the surveillance range from 17 nautical miles to 32 nautical miles, Ljungqvist adds.

The VTOL UAS has a patrol height of 300m to 500m at a speed of about 55 knots. It can carry out a sea surveillance pattern of 100kn from the ship, and can be carried out while the ship is sailing.

This kind of craft allows counter-piracy missions to monitor suspected pirates, on shore or at sea.

Design requirements for VTOL UAS include airworthiness, with the ability to develop light an mission capabilities certified for all airspace classifications. They must be available for best usability and time in the air. They must also be easy to operate with autonomous functions and intuitive man-machine interfaces. And they must be affordable.

Payloads could include EO.IR sensors, laser range funder and laser pointer, a high performance SAR, AIS, communications relay, SIGINT/ELINT, 3D rapid mapping processing or an active off board decoy.

Using a VTOL UAS for maritime operations means that they should be adaptive to different environments, it needs a landing gear and a heavy fuel engine. It should be fitted with maritime mission payloads, and should have automatic take-off and landing. The vessel should have desk arresting equipment and floating devices.

The a UAS control station, there are a number of requirements: it needs to be intuitive and easy to operate; ensure airworthiness and safety; ability to provide mission planning, training, execution, processing and evaluation. It should be integrated into the ships command management system.

In terms of integration, the CMS needs to be integrated, along with the data link with C2 and sensor data links. On the physical side, there are a number of requirements to ensure integration.

A VTOL UAS offers high readiness, with standby for day and night.