The Israeli company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has tested the Heron reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle to operate in commercial airspace with manned aircraft. The UAV landed successfully at Ben Gurion International Airport, becoming the first UAV to land in an international airport alongside commercial flights occupying civilian air space, according to the company.
During the tests, Heron took off from Ein Shemer’s airfield, landed at Ben Gurion, and flew back to Ein Shemer. All takeoff, flight, and landing were controlled by an operator located at the Ein Shemer control station.
This landing proves the maturity and safety of IAI’s Long Runner operating system, which allows UAVs to automatically take-off and land on long-haul routes (ranges of up to 1,500 km and more) using satellite communication technology and a combination of precise takeoff and automatic landing capability, the company said in a statement.
General Director of the military aircraft group Moshe Levy called this achievement a significant breakthrough.
Designed to carry out longer strategic and tactical missions, the IAI Heron can withstand severe weather conditions, carry multiple payloads (sensors), and transmit real-time information to the forces and decision-makers in the field. It is capable of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) operations of up to 52 hours’ duration at up to 10.5 km (35,000 ft).
The drone uses a Rotax 914 four-cylinder engine producing 115 horsepower and has a maximum speed of 129 mph (207 km/h). The drone can carry cargo up to 290 kg and can be used for a range of civilian purposes as well.
IAI since unveiled the Super Heron refinement of the Heron UAS. The Super Heron has a 200-horsepower diesel engine that improves the climb rate and performance. It has a top speed of 170 mph (280 km/h), cruising speed of 69 to 92 mph (110 to 150 km/h), is capable of flying up 160 miles (250 km) away when flown in line-of-sight or 620 miles (1,000 km) by satellite control. The countries operating the Heron include Australia, Singapore, India, and Turkey.