May 6, 2012: Austrian aircraft manufacturer Schiebel's S-100 helicopter UAV has successfully completed its first take-off and landing from a warship. The Italian Navy is interested in obtaining helicopter UAVs and this demonstration was part of Schiebel's sales pitch. The S-100's major competitor is the American Fire Scout, which is seven times heavier (at 1,400 kg) and has been used by the U.S. Navy for several years.
The S-100 weighs 200 kg (440 pounds), can stay aloft six hours per sortie, and operates at a max altitude of 5,500 meters (18,000 feet). Max speed is 220 kilometers an hour. U.S. firm Boeing markets the S-100 in many parts of the world.
So far, some 200 S-100s have been sold to four countries. Four S-100s were sold to Libya and used against the rebels last year. There is also a 13 kg (29 pound) LMM (Lightweight Multi-Role Missile) that has been mounted on the S-100. The LMM has a range of 6,000 meters, but the S-100 is mainly intended for reconnaissance.
Helicopter UAVs are considered superior in urban areas or for operating off ships. While General Atomics has a lock on mid-size (1-5 ton) UAVs (Predator and Reaper) and AeroVironment has the bulk of the micro-UAV (two kg/4.4 pound) market with its Raven, the rest of the markets are up for grabs. Thus one of the traditional aviation companies, Boeing, is trying to grab market share via buying, or marketing, many promising UAV designs (A160T, ScanEagle, SolarEagle, Bat, and the S-100 Camcopter). Boeing is hoping that one of these designs will catch on big.
Helicopter type UAVs are becoming more popular. The 1.5 ton A160T, 1.4 ton Fire Scout, and .2 ton S-100 are helicopters and are able to hover. This is increasingly found to be useful in combat zones. The A160T is serving as a cargo carrier for the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. The Fire Scout is there also, for reconnaissance. There is a potential market for thousands of helicopter UAVs, mostly by armies and navies eager to benefit from the unique characteristics of UAVs in combat.