Procurement: UAV Rental Business Booms


March 31, 2009: The Netherlands is renting Israeli Aerostar UAVs for its troops in Afghanistan. This is a 460 pound UAV, that can carry 110 pounds of sensors and batteries. Endurance is about twelve hours, maximum altitude is 18,000 feet. The Aerostar can operate up to 200 kilometers from its base station radio (or use an optional satellite comm. link and operate over 600 kilometers away). With a wing span of 21 feet, the Aerostar moves at from 108 to 200 kilometers an hour. The Aerostars cost $1.5 million each. But add in ground equipment, spares and training, costs per aircraft are about 30 percent more (close to $2 million per UAV.) The $51 million lease contract is initially for 18 months (through the Summer of 2010), and will include contractors to operate and maintain about a dozen of the Aerostars. 

Holland, like Canada, sent troops to Afghanistan, equipped with Sperwer UAVs. Having heard of Canadian dissatisfaction with the French built Sperwer, the Dutch soon found out for themselves. The $2.6 million Sperwer LE (Long Endurance) weighs 772 pounds, carries a 110 pound payload, is 12 feet long and has an endurance of 12 hours. Sperwer can operate up to 200 kilometers from its ground control unit. But the Sperwer uses a noisy engine (think lawnmower) and flies low enough to be heard. The Sperwer has suffered from the heat, dust and wind that is so abundant in Afghanistan. At first, the Canadian troops came to depend on their Sperwers, and wanted more of them, than realized that another, newer, UAV, would do the job better. The troops have learned that operator experience is a major factor in UAV success, and much of that would be lost if they switched a new model. But the Sperwer proved increasingly unreliable, while NATO officers were able to see other, more reliable UAV models in action. Canada went and rented Israeli Heron UAVs, to replace their Sperwers.



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