Warplanes: Tiny Spylite Does Chile

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April 16, 2013: Chile has ordered at least a dozen (with more orders to come) Israeli Spylite mini-UAVs. The Spylite weighs 9 kg (19.4 pounds) and has a payload of 1.3 kg (2.8 pounds). Max endurance is four hours and it can operate up to 50 kilometers from its controller. Spylite is launched with a portable catapult and lands via parachute. Spylite can be backpacked (in two 20 kg/44 pound loads) but is usually transported in a vehicle. The battery operated Spylite was designed to cope with high winds. This is a problem smaller UAVs (like the 2 kg Raven) have a lot of trouble with. Max altitude is 10,000 meters (31,000 feet) but for best results it should operate at under 1,000 meters (3,100 feet). In other words, if ground fire is a big problem, Spylite can climb high enough (6,000 meters) to be safe. It takes about 15 minutes to land one, replace the battery, and get it into the air again. The Spylite has a lot of real-world experience (in combat and civilian situations). Its day/night vidvams are gimbaled so they can be moved around quickly. The sensor software can automatically follow anything on the ground designated by the operator.

This is not the first Israeli UAV Chile has bought. Two years ago Chile became the first export customer for the Israeli Hermes 900 UAV. Israeli aircraft manufacturer Elbit conducted the first flight test of the Hermes 900 in 2009. This UAV is similar in size (and appearance) to the American Predator (both weighing 1.1 tons), but the Israeli vehicle is built mainly for endurance. It has a 10 meter (31 foot) wingspan. The Hermes 900 can stay in the air for 36 hours and has a payload of 300 kg (650 pounds). This means that, with its cruising speed of 125 kilometers an hour, the Hermes 900 has a max range of 4,500 kilometers. Chile is using Hermes 900s for reconnaissance along the coast. Chile has a 4,630 kilometer long coastline but the country is only 430 kilometers wide. In effect, Chile occupies the southern half of the South American Pacific coast. Patrolling that has always been a chore and usually just wasn't done much. The southernmost area, ending in the Drake Passage at the southern tip of South America, has very rough weather. So a Hermes 900 could patrol most of the Chilean coast in about 30 hours. 

The Hermes 900 is basically a stretched and bulked up Hermes 450, which is a 450 kg (992 pound) aircraft, with a payload of 150 kg. It can also carry Hellfire missiles. The Hermes 450 is 6.5 meters (20 feet) long and has a 11.3 meter (35 foot) wingspan. It can stay in the air for up to 20 hours per sortie and fly as high as 6,500 meters (20,000 feet). The Hermes 450 is the primary heavy UAV for the Israeli armed forces.

 


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