Israel Aerospace Industries on Tuesday unveiled the newest version of its Heron unmanned aerial vehicle at the Singapore air show.
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Called the Super Heron Heavy Fuel, the drone differs from previous incarnations of the medium-altitude, long-endurance drone due to its integration of a heavy-fuel engine. The redesigned drone can stay airborne for 45 hours.
IAI developed the new drone to "meet growing interest among leading customers," the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
It described the Super Heron's features as including a heavy-fuel, 200 horsepower engine and an advanced propulsion system, which "significantly enhances the UAS's capacity, rate of climb, and performance," IAI said.
IAI also said that the switch to diesel fuel gives the drone safety advantages that would appeal to international armies.
The Super Heron features advanced avionics, advanced computerized systems, increased electrical power, multi-sensor capabilities and state-of-the-art communications.
The Super Heron underwent trial flights in Israel in late 2013. It is in operational use with the Israel Air Force and with another twenty users worldwide, and has proven its unique and reliable capabilities in key areas around the globe. IAI's various drones have accumulated over 1.1 million operational flight hours around the world, while the Heron family has accumulated 250,000 operational flight hours worldwide.
'The world's leading tactical drone'
In a conversation from Singapore, Weiss told Haaretz that IAI is in talks with clients interested in acquiring the new drone, which he said "has features that could make it the world's leading tactical drone."
Weiss also addressed Israel's status in the global drone market, saying that it remains a leader in the industry despite competition, which he said, "can only strengthen Israel's position in the industry."
Israel recently lost out on two drone deals – in France and the Netherlands – to the United States, but Weiss said those losses don't necessarily point to a trend. "These were two different deals, with different characteristics, including geopolitical ones," he said.
The decision to unveil the drone in Singapore indicates the rising popularity of the UAV market in Asia. Israel's Defense Ministry and defense industries have identified a drop in military investments in Europe and the U.S., prompting them to pivot toward other markets in Latin America, Asia and the Pacific and Africa.
Weiss said that Southeast Asia is increasing defense spending and that Israel is very active in that market. "In these second-tier countries, outside of Europe and the U.S., a variety of drones can meet internal security needs, protect gas and oil sites and also safeguard borders," he said.