Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Falco UAV makes first flight with PicoSAR radar

By Craig Hoyle

Selex Galileo has test flown a Falco unmanned air vehicle in the UK with its PicoSAR miniature synthetic aperture radar payload, and says the combination could play a valuable role in detecting improvised explosive devices.

Flown at the company's UAV test facility at the ParcAberporth centre of excellence in west Wales, the Falco tactical air vehicle was equipped with the active electronically scanned array PicoSAR and an electro-optical/infrared sensor for the recent trials activity.

"The high-resolution SAR, coupled with change detection, make the radar particularly useful for counter-IED missions, detecting disturbances in ground surface," Selex Galileo says. Weighing just 10kg (22lb), the sensor can produce SAR imagery in both strip and spot modes from a range of up to 20km (10.8nm), and collect ground moving target indication data.

Selex Galileo has also revealed further details of a separate test campaign conducted with the Falco at the Robonic Arctic Test UAV Flight Centre in Kemijarvi, Finland from late July. The company performed handover missions with an air vehicle equipped with a more powerful datalink, and says these demonstrated the ability to perform surveillance tasks "much beyond line-of-sight".

The company also used the Finnish campaign to test an improved version of its truck-mounted high-mobility ground control station, which provides command and control services for the Falco system, plus mission planning and debriefing functions.

Pakistan is in the process of acquiring Falco systems from Selex Galileo, and the company has previously identified Libya as another possible future buyer. The UAV has a maximum take-off weight of 420kg and a mission endurance of 8-14h, depending on payload configuration.

The Falco can carry a wide range of surveillance payloads, says Selex Galileo. These can include a laser designator, maritime surveillance radar and nuclear, biological and chemical detection sensors. The air vehicle can also be equipped with chaff and flare dispensers for self-protection purposes.

With an endurance of 9-14+ h and a standard control link range of 200 km (370nm), the Falco has short take-off capability from semi-prepared airstrips, or can be launched using a pneumatic catapult. Recovery is made via either automatic landing, tactical short landing or by parachute.


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