February 24, 2010:
In Afghanistan, Canadian CU-170 Heron UAVs have flown 5,000 hours (and 335 missions, after 14 months in operation there). The two Herons belong to CHUD (Canadian Heron UAV Detachment).
Heron has become a popular alternative to the American Predator UAV. Last year Australian troops in Afghanistan also begun using Israeli Heron UAVs. Canada received its first Herons in 2008. The most popular model of the Heron is very similar to the 1.1 ton U.S. Predator. This Heron model has a 500 pound payload capacity and can stay in the air for more than 24 hours per sortie. While Australia and Brazil are buying Herons, Canada is leasing them.
Canada has also ordered half a dozen Israeli Heron TP UAVs. Equipped with a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turbo prop engine, the 4.6 ton aircraft can operate at 45,000 feet. That is, above commercial air traffic, and all the air-traffic-control regulations that discourage, and often forbid, UAV use at the same altitude as commercial aircraft. The Heron TP has a one ton payload, enabling it to carry sensors that can give a detailed view of what's on the ground, even from that high up. The endurance of 36 hours makes the Heron TP a competitor for the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper (or Predator B), which is the same size as Heron.
The Heron line of UAVs has been around longer than the Predators, and have a comparable track record. India and European nations are already buying various models of the Heron. The Heron TP is also suitable for maritime patrol, and is a low cost competitor to the Global Hawk, which has far more range than most nations need for their naval reconnaissance aircraft.
Heron is actually getting a lot of sales because the Predator manufacturer cannot keep up with orders. Israeli UAVs have a good reputation, although many nations avoid buying Israeli weapons because of the potential backlash from Arab oil suppliers.