One of IAI’s highlights at DefExpo 2022 was the new Heron MK II UAS, a member of the Heron family of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), which has been serving the armed forces in Asia and worldwide for decades.
Heron MK II sets new mission capabilities, efficiencies, and autonomy standards with a new airframe and wings tuned to maximise performance. A comprehensive payload suit enables the Heron MK II to support multiple payloads operating over a broad spectrum. Different payloads onboard allow the collection of reconnaissance, surveillance, and intelligence in real-time, covering large areas of interest. These include standoff reconnaissance with the M19 payload, enabling long distance observation up to 100 km, or persistent surveillance over a wide area with the Wasp payload. Heron MK II can also carry maritime surveillance radar, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electronic surveillance measures (ESM), and communications intelligence (COMINT). By operating up to six sensor payloads simultaneously, Heron Mk II provides a complete, multi-modal intelligencegathering capability on a single platform.
Heron Mk II also incorporates an integral wideband satellite communications link and a digital line-of-sight datalink. Switching between the different datalinks can optimise the mission to become covert, secure, and resilient. In addition to streaming live sensor data to the ground segment, Heron Mk II also has servers onboard, providing users access to large amounts of raw or processed sensor data collected throughout the mission and stored onboard.
Special attention is given to the electronic protection of communications, navigation, and flight systems and protecting the GPS and datalinks against jamming, deception, interference, and cyber-attack. The platform maintains self-awareness throughout the flight, preventing location deception, unauthorised intervention, or hostile takeover of the autonomous platform.
Given the ability of Heron Mk II to operate in remote areas controlled over the satellite datalink, the UAS can be controlled from a central location, managing multiple platforms and missions from one place. Flight operations utilise advanced automated and autonomous processes, allowing the operators to control the platforms in just four steps: taxi, takeoff, flight, and landing. The modern mission control center comprises ergonomic workstations using six flat-screen displays and modern map-based graphical touch control to support the mission. An integrated training system enables the training and rehearsal of operators under all conditions, simulating the weather conditions, simulate platform behavior, terrain, payloads, and targets without the need to risk airframes under rough flight conditions.
IAI is cooperating with defence public sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. pursuing a broad activity in the field of UAS. Under this cooperation, the two companies pursue localisation and expansion of current and future UAS system integration and production under the Indian government’s new policies of moving to local sourcing and acquiring the platforms and weapon systems for the armed services. As for product support, IAI has expanded its cooperation with the private sector company ELCOM Systems Pvt. Ltd. to provide UAS Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) for all operators of IAI’s UAS in the Indian subcontinent.
The Heron MKII UAS is interoperable and compatible with the Heron family systems and leverages IAI’s unmanned systems’ operational experience of +2,000,000 flight hours. Based on the successful operational record of the Heron UAS with all Indian military services, the new Heron MK II is positioned to introduce new operational capabilities, deepen Indian participation, and continue the proud Heron legacy.