Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has taken the wraps off a tilt-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called the Panther.
The UAV combines the capabilities of an aircraft with helicopter-like hovering, a tilt-rotor propeller and a fixed-wing vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) system, which enables a runway-free takeoff and landing on an unprepared area.
An automatic flight-control system controls the transitions between the hovering takeoff phase to forward flight, and vice versa, before landing.
With its three electric motors, the Panther, which weighs roughly 65kg, can loiter for approximately six hours at an altitude of up to 10,000ft, with a radius of operation of over 60km.
The UAV can carry IAI’s Mini-POP (Plug-in Optronic Payload) − a camera with a laser range finder, pointer or laser designator.
A smaller 12kg version of the Panther has also been developed. Called the Mini Panther, it can loiter for approximately two hours.
The UAVs will be exhibited for the first time internationally at the Association of the US Army’s (AUSA) 2010 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington DC later this month.
Prototypes of the Panther have already flown successful test flights and production UAVs will be operational by 2011.