Canada Selects Skylark as its Future Mini-UAV
In “Dutch, Canadians Purchase Mini-UAVs for Use in Afghanistan,” we noted Canada’s deployment of Elbit Systems’ Skylark mini-UAV to Afghanistan as an interim solution. Now SpaceWar.com reports that a Thales Canada will provide a UAV based on Elbit’s Skylark as Canada’s long-term mini-UAV choice. Other competitors reportedly included IAI’s I-View 50 with its unique parafoil landing system, and Boeing’s larger ScanEagle UAV with its dual land/maritime role. So far, there has been no official announcement from Canada’s DND to confirm this.
The Skylark is a soldier-portable mini-UAV with an electric motor whose quietness and the UAV’s small size makes it extremely difficult to detect. It has an endurance of about 90 minutes, and a range of about 4-5 miles. The Skylark integrates three air vehicles into one backpack and has a ruggedized ground station and communications antenna. It is far too small to carry weapons, but does carry a steerable and stabilized surveillance cameras and its modular design allows fast swap-outs.
Aug 3/10: Prioria Robotics in Gainesvilla, FL receives a USD$ 2.8 million contract from Public Works and Government Services Canada for 5 Maveric Mini-UAV systems, to be used in aid of Operation Athena in Afghanistan. Prioria has selected ING Engineering of Ottawa, Canada, to provide DND with logistical support.
Maveric was introduced in 2008, and is built around Prioria’s Merlin embedded computing system. Their goal is to enable on-board image processing and vision-based control, reducing reliance on ground station communication. Internal GPS also improves autonomy, and the Maveric is said to be capable of fully autonomous operation from launch to landing, if necessary. A patented bendable wing design lets the wings bend back for storage, avoiding assembly and disassembly in the field. The Maveric can mount a 360 degree gimbal EO camera, and comes with image stabilization.
A system includes 3 Maveric UAVs, plus a ground control station (GCS). A side-look EO camera is standard, while the gimbal mount and Merlin onboard processing are options, as is an infrared camera, or target tracking capability added to the GCS. Prioria release [PDF].
Nov 19/06: Israel’s Globes business daily relays a Flight International report re: Canadian experiences with the Skylark I in Afghanistan:
“The British weekly quotes a technical director in the Canadian Army interim small UAV programme, Captain Rob Sanders as saying, “Most of them aren’t flying in Afghanistan. For some reason, in some parts of the country it will fly great, or today it will fly. The same one, at a separate time tonight, won’t fly. So they have grounded them all trying to figure out what is going on. We are sending a couple of specialists over there to sort that out.”
Despite requests, Elbit declines to provide updates concerning the resolution of this problem. On April 6/09, Boeing subsidiary Insitu receives an award to provide “small unmanned aerial vehicle (SUAV) services” to support the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere, using its ScanEagle UAV.