Naval Air: More UAVs At Sea


September 21, 2010: Israel is equipping its patrol boats with Orbiter 2 UAVs. Each Orbiter system consists of three UAVs and control equipment. The naval version of the Orbiter 2 weighs 9.5 kg (21 pounds) and its battery powered motor can keep it in the air for about three hours per sortie. Maximum altitude is 3,200 meters and top speed is 120 kilometers an hour. But since the UAV can't operate more than 80 kilometers from the controller, top speed is rarely needed. The Oribiter is launched by a catapult. It lands via parachute, and is waterproof and floats. One of the three UAVs each system has can then be launched while the other is fished from the water, have its battery replaced, and the parachute repacked, and be ready for another sortie in under ten minutes. Some patrol boat crews will probably endeavor to get the boat under an Orbiter that is floating down via the parachute. The day/night vidcam transmits video back to the handheld controller, where the images can be stored. The patrol boats will find Orbiter particularly useful to check out activity over the horizon, or look more closely at any suspicious boats, or activity ashore.

While the Orbiter is designed for ease of use, you have to be careful. For example, Irish troops using them in Chad earlier this year, lost one when it momentarily lost radio contact with the controller. The UAV was lost when it apparently tried to fly back to Ireland. The Orbiter is programmed to head back to the operator if it loses its comm link. But this Orbiter apparently still had a GPS location back in Ireland in its memory, and headed there. Since Ireland is 5,000 kilometers from Chad, the Orbiter ran out of juice and landed about 4,800 kilometers short of its goal. Thus Israeli navy operators have to enter a GPS location near to where they believe their patrol boat will be in the next two hours, if they want to make use of the "fly home if you lose radio contact with the controller" feature.





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