Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), maker of the Heron MK II Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), is currently in advanced stages of discussions regarding sale of the drone with multiple potential customers, including those from the Asia Pacific region.
“We are very busy, but we always have the ambition to sell more and more,” Eyal Assenhaym, VP Marketing of IAI’s Military Aircraft Group, told Daily News in an interview.
“We are confident about the capabilities of Heron MK II and are promoting it globally. The Asia Pacific region is a very important market for us. Our customers in the area are well experienced with operating UAVs and they have high standards in terms of requirements. We hope to remain a leading player in the region.”
MALAT systems are in operational service with over 50 users, deployed on five continents and have accumulated over 2,000,000 flight hours. “We are pioneers; we been in the business for 50 years,” says Assenhaym. “We have more than 20 countries operating different versions of our UAVs. We provide our customers state of the art equipment and also try to be flexible in terms of providing solutions that are tailormade for them.”
The modern military UAV market is a crowded one, with companies from China eating into the market share of some of the more established companies by selling drones much cheaper. Assenhaym, however, isn’t fazed by the competition. “We see more and more competitors in our business, but we still lead,” he said.
“The customers appreciate the quality and reliability of our UAvs. When we sell a system to a country, we cooperate with local companies allowing them to integrate specific capabilities. We are a very flexible and customer-oriented company.”
The Heron MK II, the latest version of the Heron, is unique with the most powerful engine in the category, said Assenhaym. “The UAV provides the highest flight performance, coverage capacity, speed and endurance. This gives the customer the ability to work in a standoff position. That is the kind of flexibility that a customer is looking for. Another advantage of the UAV is that it suits operators of the legacy Heron. For them, Heron MK II would fit as an upgrade. They can work side by side, using the same ground station, the same maintenance facilities and the same operators. If you are considering adding to your fleet, acquiring the Heron MK II would be the most cost-effective option.”
There has been a growing demand for integration of UAVs into non-segregated airspace. “We have invested a lot in this area,” said Assenhaym. “There are no worldwide standards today, but the standardization is evolving. As a leading player in the field of UAVs, we are leading from the front to make it happen.”
Heron MK II has the most powerful engine in the category, but IAI is constantly working to improve the UAV, said Assenhaym. “MK II is an 8th generation aircraft, basically with a new engine, new structure, wider and bigger. It flies higher, has more endurance and larger payloads. But we are constantly working to update the system. The engine will serve for a long time, but we are working to improve the payloads, the data analytics, communication and other capabilities.”
Fitted with a Rotax 916 iS engine, the Heron MK II can reach an altitude of 35,000 feet, a maximum speed of 140 knots and has a maximum endurance of 45 hours. The UAV has a wider and stronger body structure compared to its predecessor, thus allowing for quick and easy maintenance without adding to its weight. The aircraft can carry a wide range of additional payloads such as ELINT, COMINT, ESM, and Communication. Because of its ability to carry larger and improved sensors, the UAV is able to gather intelligence from
tens of kilometers away without crossing borders.
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