Warplanes: Spy/Ranger Learns From The Past


February 15, 2017: At the end of 2016 the French military ordered 105 of the new Spy/Ranger mini-UAVs for $518,000 each. This is a newly developed system and deliveries won’t begin until 2018. Moreover, it was developed by a French firm (Thales) that has been playing catchup in the UAV area for over a decade. But the Spy/Ranger was deliberately based on the most successful features of the American and Israeli competition plus a few new techs the European manufacturers have developed. Thus Spy/Ranger is built to take a lot of rough treatment as well as being protected from electronic interference. Its data feed to the ground station is encrypted and has the longest range yet for a small UAV like this. Spy/Ranger also incorporates the latest vidcam technology including much improved support software for things like stabilization and following designated items on the ground. There are apparently more features that won’t be made public until after Spy/Ranger ships.

Spy/Ranger is as 14.5 kg (32 pound) UAV with a 1.2 kg (2.6 pound) payload and endurance of 2.5 hours. The UAV can operate 15 kilometers from the operator (or twice that with an optional and more powerful controller). Wingspan is 3.8 meters (12 feet) and assembling and launching a system takes less than 15 minutes. Top speed is 90 kilometers an hour. The maximum range of transmissions from the UAV is 30 kilometers and the UAV is designed to operate automatically (including takeoff and landing) once the operator has programmed in the flight parameters (where to go, at what altitude.) The operator can intervene at any time (as long as the UAV is within range of the controller commands) to modify the flight orders.

Spy/Ranger is sold as a system, each system containing a controller, three UAVs and some maintenance equipment. The electric motor cannot be heard when the UAV is more than 200 meters (660 feet) high.

There is optional backpack equipment available in which a system (three disassembled UAVs and controller) can fit into two 25 kg (55 pound) loads. The onboard day/night video cams are stabilized and have automatic target detection software.