The Heron is Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Malat medium altitude long endurance UAV. The Heron is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) for strategic and tactical missions. With a wingspan of 16.6 meters and a takeoff weight of 1,250 kg, the Heron UAV can reach an altitude of 30,000 feet and has the endurance of up to 50 hours. The Heron uses the typical twin-boom pusher prop configuration favored by the company, but on a larger scale. It first flew in 1994. The Heron is powered by a turbocharged Rotax 914 flat-four piston engine, includes system redundancy for reliability, and has retractable tricycle landing gear plus an arresting hook.
Initially deployed with the Indian defense forces, for high altitude land surveillance and maritime patrol missions, the Heron has been acquired by the Israel Air Force and Turkish defense Forces, for similar applications. It was in use by coalition forces in Afghanistan which relied heavily on them for to provide crucial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information in real-time to commanders and directly to front line soldiers.
IAI developed the "Heron-TP / Eitan" turboprop version of the Heron, with a 750 kW (1,000 HP) turboprop engine. This prototype was able to carry a 590 kilogram (1,300 pound) payload at an altitude of 12,800 meters (42,000 feet), a cruise speed of 445 KPH (240 KT), and an endurance of 20 hours. This led to the largely secret "Heron II" operational variant, about one-third heavier than the original Heron. Heron II is said to be intended for reconnaissance, surveillance, air defense, attack, and tanker roles. This Medium Altitude Long Endurance MALE is a larger UAV than any other so far flown in Israel, which can fly for at least 36 hours without having to return to base. IAI Malat has also considered a "Heron-TJ", with twin Williams FJ44-2 turbofans.
Since 2001 in collaboration between the European Consortium EADS and Israeli Aerospace Industries, has been the developed unmanned aerial vehicle known as Eagle. The vehicle is based on the Heron-1 (also known as Shoval) and has a European design considered more sophisticated systems. More recently, it was known the existence of another prototype known as Eagle-II. Because of its size, the eagle-II appears to be an evolution of Eagle-I in the same way that Heron-II appears to be a development of Heron-I.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in partnership with Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, a subsidiary of Airbus DS successfully completed 200 flight hours with the maritime Heron Unmanned Aerial System in October 2019 as part of marine patrol and coastal guard missions on Crete, Greece. The Heron flew in European civilian airspace under a civilian code. Flying for FRONTEX, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the maritime Heron performed a series of flights equipped with an electro-optical payload for day and night vision, a marine radar made by IAI and an automatic identification receiver. Each mission lasted 14 hours on average. The surveillance platform Heron 1 used a direct link when flying within Line of Sight (LOS), switching seamlessly to a satellite link when flying Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) to transmit real time information to multiple users in real time.
IAI and Airbus were selected by FRONTEX in a contract that includes operating the UAS in daily security and coastal guard missions, maintenance and more. IAI and Airbus will provide the service for pre-planned assignments as well as for ad-hoc calls. The current contract covers 600 flight hours and may be extended into a longer-term agreement.
The Maritime Heron UAS serves a range of customers worldwide, and is a part of the well-known "Heron" family which has accumulated over 300,000 flight hours, day/night missions, under all weather conditions. The Heron can fly 24 hours in full operational configuration. It carries versatile dedicated payloads to provide a clear, real-time intelligence picture to the marine vessels' commanders and teams. The only UAS directly controlled by a ship's command system since 2010, the maritime Heron is in service with the Israel Navy as its key patrolling tool, successfully performing reconnaissance and security assignments for many years.
|Country of Origin||Israel|
|Builder||Israeli Aircraft Industries|
|Role||Long endurance surveillance and targeting|
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