Royal Air Force has been using its new HERTI ("High Endurance Rapid
Technology Insertion) UAV in Afghanistan for the last few months, and it has
been successful. HERTI is a 990 pound aircraft, with a payload of 330 pounds.
It can stay in the air for up to 30 hours. It has a wingspan of 44 feet and can
operate as high as 20,000 feet. The ground station fits into the back of a
light truck. HERTI took about 18 months to develop, and was ready for service
by late 2006. While HERTI can be "flown" by an operator on the ground, its
flight control software is designed to take care of all flight operations. The
operator plans a mission, and then lets HERTI take off, fly and mission, return
and land. The operator can intervene, of course, most often to have the UAV
circle an area of interest, in order to keep something down there in view. The
Royal Air Force also uses the larger U.S. Predator in Afghanistan. The smaller
HERTI is technically still in development, with the Afghanistan assignment
being something of a final exam. HERTI is being pitched to civilian users as
well, mainly police forces. The fully automated nature of HERTI operations is a
primary selling point.