Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) says it has successfully completed a proof of concept demonstration of an unmanned helicopter in two scenarios.

The first simulated carrying a severely wounded soldier to safety for life-saving treatment. The second scenario simulated carrying logistics supplies to an isolated force at the front line, which could not be otherwise accessed otherwise without risk to troops.

As an unmanned helicopter used mainly to provide fast logistics supplies to sites where ground access is difficult or dangerous, IAI’s Air Hopper is based on a small, manned helicopter with a payload of 100-180 kg (depending on the model), flight time of two hours and speed of up to 120 km/h. The Air Hopper runs on an internal combustion engine which uses ordinary, 95-octane fuel.

According to IAI, the cost of the Air Hopper “is considerably lower” than that of a manned transport helicopter, allowing forces to acquire a number of them for evacuation or logistical purposes while “significantly mitigating the risk to human lives.”

Minimising risk

The operator using the autonomous system supervises the execution of the mission and the convoy’s vehicles in real time from a safe area outside the threat range of the battlefield. The system’s open architecture also makes it compatible with a range of platforms with no need for special adaptations, according to IAI.

Shaul Shahar, Corporate V.P. & General Manager, IAI Military Aircraft Group said: “Both systems’ proof of concept step is an important milestone for IAI in the world of unmanned vehicles, developing the future battlefield and in offering optimal unmanned operational solutions that minimise the risk to human lives as much as possible. I believe these developments will open many doors for us in local and global markets, military and civilian alike.”