Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2018-07-01

Rotary UAV: Go-to Technology for Maritime Security

The eyes of navies worldwide are firmly fixed on the strategic and tactical role that UAVs can play, specifically with respect to the rotary VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) niche. Because maritime territorial borders present obvious surveillance challenges, countries are focussed on a spectrum of issues including illegal fishing, illegal border crossing, armed robbery of ships and sea piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking, maritime terrorism, arms smuggling and illegal logging to name a few. Deployment of ISR missions to resolve issues such as these have become both a costly and challenging task for any defence organisation or security agency concerned with protecting and patrolling its borders. 
 
By: Sakha Pramod
“The security and surveillance role of VTOL Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have become the latest tool deployed against the murky world of maritime criminal activity, where the problem lies within trying to catch out determined individuals or gangs on sea using land based technologies,” says David Willems, Business Development Director for UMS SKELDAR. “Many of those involved in such illegal activities are well aware of the patch or region within which they operate, so further advanced capabilities are required for the authorities to stay one step ahead. That brings in the use of aerial surveillance and specifically VTOL UAVs,” he says in an interview with the Nation Shield. 
UAV platforms cannot be deployed on every single ship due to the space required to operate them. There should be at least 10x10 metres of deck space to have enough clearance for security during taking off and landing. In addition, the ship needs to be equipped with hangar facilities; it does not have to be very big, but it is important to cater for the logistical footprint. 
 
How important are rotary UAVs in naval operations?
Willems says rotary UAVs are changing the way navies, coast guards and other maritime organisations gather data whilst on mission. “With advantages including their capacity to hover and perform agile manoeuvring in tight spaces, the ability to deploy extensive payloads with ease, having a smaller logistical footprint than their fixed wing counterparts and being able to maintain visual on a single target for extended periods, rotary UAVs enable users to gather extensive amounts of data efficiently and at improved costs in comparison with manned crews.
 
“Take the SKELDAR V-200 as an example of a leading rotary UAV on the market; it is the first rotary winged medium-range UAV that can be operated from a tailored ground control station. It not only includes an interface with BMS and C4ISR systems, but is also 4586 STANAG compliant, making it easier to implement on any navy vessel. The system is deployable with a number of Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) high resolution EO/IR, Search & Rescue and EW sensors, in addition to a range of training packages. It is also equipped with capabilities including surveillance, 3D mapping and more recently ViDAR payload capabilities including the unique deployment of five to 10 cameras for optimal 360-degree maritime domain awareness, enabling complete real-time ISR and C4ISR across a wide variety of maritime applications. 
“The flagship SKELDAR V-200 is powered by a two-cylinder, in-line, two-stroke, liquid cooled internal combustion engine provided by Hirth Motors. The reason for using this fuel over gasoline is the fact that it is very hard to ignite and it can sit in storage containers for a long time without degrading. This makes it relatively safe and reduces the risk of fire on a ship or base. 
 
“Alongside this, the V-200 has one of the highest power to weight ratios available in comparison to competitor engines, includes a 235-kilo take-off weight and can carry a wide variety of payload options up to 40 kilos of weight. The V-200 includes excellent fuel consumption, ability to cold start without the requirement for heaters and has the best time between overhaul (TBO) within its class, making it the ideal partner for navies and coastguards around the globe. Finally, it is available in a leasing capacity, with options including dry and wet lease dependent on requirements. This is especially useful for military and civilian organisations that do not have the capital to spend on a rotary UAV, but need the capability it provides for upcoming projects,” he adds. 
 
What role can UAVs play in keeping the seas safe?  
Humanitarian operations to save lives at sea or tackling threats including illegal immigration, terrorist threats to such things as port infrastructure, piracy and border control, all require strong cooperation between relevant public agencies, government and private contractors to come up with a timely, effective response. Technology plays an important role in addressing key maritime security challenges, in particular UAVs and their C4ISR attributes.
 
Willems says the SKELDAR V-200 is an excellent choice for maritime operations due to its high flight performance, heavy fuel engine and easy-to-maintain design. Systems are continuously being improved with the integration of new sensors and different payloads according to specific requirements.
 
At sea, military personnel cannot afford to make any mistakes because these can lead to severe consequences. For this reason, rotary UAVs with their vast intelligence gathering technologies and ability to span long distances at a relatively low cost (in comparison with manned crews), are becoming the go-to technologies for maritime security activities,” says Willems.  
 
Are there any future developments?
With those involved in illegal activities now resorting to sophisticated means, from illegal boarding of merchant ships to transporting contraband, the role of agencies in detection and prevention is more challenging than ever before. 
 
Willems says Rotary UAVs, such as the SKELDAR V-200, are being reviewed increasingly for maritime issues including piracy, illegal border crossing and drug trafficking to name a few. This usage will only further increase in the future as a combination of more complex requirements in conjunction with the need for a rapid response becomes the norm. 
 
“What this means is that rotary UAVs will need to be built specifically for usage on naval vessels. Future developments will need UAV manufacturers to consider aspects including heavy fuel as well as the small logistical footprint. If they don’t, many will get left behind,” he concludes. 
 

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