Editorial: January 2019
In September 2018, Schiebel helped bring the Red Bull Air Race World Championship to Wiener Neustadt, Austria. Schiebel is based in Vienna, a 45-minute train ride north, but the company in 2006 opened up its primary production facility dedicated to the CAMCOPTER S-100 unmanned aerial system (UAS) in Wiener Neustadt.
It was the first time for Red Bull to hold one of its aerobatic fixed-wing races in Wiener Neustadt, but the series actually began in Austria 15 years ago this past June. The event allowed Red Bull and Schiebel to highlight a hotbed of Austrian aeronautical history and the S-100. An international audience watched Schiebel’s Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicle operate two flight displays per day. It also allowed the S-100 to show off some of its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (IRS) abilities by simultaneously broadcasting an aerial overview of the venue on big screens. This Red Bull flight capped off an important year for the S-100 in terms of market acceptance.
Originally designed for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Army, where Schiebel also maintains a production facility, and then the German Navy, the S-100 now has total orders of around 200, including the UAE’s original order for 40 aircraft. The S-100 has logged more than 30,000 operational flight hours worldwide, as more countries test this disruptive technology for a range of mission models like general surveillance, facility inspections, border patrol, re-supply, fire control, damage assessment, search and rescue operations, aerial photography and crowd control, among others.
Developed between 2003 and 2005, based on earlier UAV R&D conducted by Schiebel, the S-100 now has a beyond line of sight capability out to 200 km, over land and sea, night or day. With a payload of 25 to 50 kg, the aircraft holds a flight time of around six hours. Flights can be extended to more than 10 hours with optional external AVGAS fuel tanks, carrying around 35 kg. This capability finished testing in March 2012 based on an internally developed heavy-fuel engine that is interchangeable with the S-100’s standard Diamond engine. The heavy-fuel engine allows for the use of fuels that are standard on marine vessels and safer to store and handle than gasoline. The standard 55 horsepower (41 kW) Diamond engine has a maximum speed of 220 kilometres per hour (140 mph) and a ceiling of 5,500 metres (18,000 feet).
The S-100 can launch in 15 minutes in rugged environments, with the system predominantly still geared toward marine use. Ultimately, the S-100 has a relatively small logistical footprint, helping with its ideal application for high-value, rapid-deployment missions.
The Belgian Navy in July 2018 spent three weeks testing the S-100 as part of its goal to acquire new maritime-surveillance and search-and-rescue equipment. The flights were the first S-100 customer demonstrations with the recently integrated PT-8 Oceanwatch payload. This wide-area maritime search capability aims to solve issues around searching for people and small objects over vast areas of sea. This topic is explained in greater detail in the article Optical Radar Wide Open by Simon Olsen (page 24), who describes ViDAR applications in the U.S., Australia and – with upcoming upgrades to Canada’s CH-149 Cormorant fleet – potentially closer to home.
Oceanwatch was used together with the L3 Wescam MX-10 primary payload to test coastal security applications for Belgium’s confined airspace and relatively straight coast line of around 70 km. Weeks earlier, Schiebel demonstrated the heavy-fuel variant of the S-100 for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), which is looking for a shipborne ISR platform. Equipped with Wescam MX-10S, RAN tested the S-100 in operational ranges of up to 60 nautical miles (111.12 km) and altitudes above 10,000 feet (3,048 metres) to showcase its imaging capabilities.
In March 2018, MDA, primarily operating out of Brampton, Ont., as a Maxar Technologies company, commissioned a fleet of S-100s to fulfill a contract with an international customer. Domestically, Canada is in the process of evaluating UAS platforms under its Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Project, attracting attention from the likes of MDA, CAE, L3 WESCAM and General Atomics, among others.