Unmanned Russian Helicopters

The Russian Defense Ministry plans to select a local supplier of unmanned surveillance and target designation aircraft. "The flight trials of possible candidates will be conducted this summer", the first deputy defense minister Vladimir Popovkin told at the end of June at Engineering Technologies Forum, a defense show held in Zhukovsky, near Moscow. He added that about 10 Russian manufacturers will take part in the trials.
This looks like another try of the Russian military to find an acceptable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for its needs. Popovkin confessed that previous attempts to develop an indigenous UAV were unsuccessful what made the Defense Ministry to purchase a dozen of Israeli-made aircraft, including Bird Eye 400 mini-UAVs and 400 kg Searcher Mk II tactical reconnaissance drone in 2009. Earlier Popovkin explained that the Israeli aircraft have been purchased only to develop the methods of UAV operational use and train personnel.
Now the Defense Ministry set a new requirement to the Russian UAV designers. "It’s important for us to see the quality of transmitted images, its immunity to countermeasures as well as the level of data-transmission channels protection", explained the deputy defense minister.
One of the possible suppliers is Russian Helicopters holding company that plans to participate in the tender with its new unmanned rotorcraft. The company is developing UAV systems in four classes: long-range (over 400 km), medium-range (up to 400 km), short-range (up to 100 km), and very-short-range systems (up to 25 km). One or several products will be offered in each category. Gennady Bebeshko, head of unmanned programs at Russian Helicopters, says the model range will reflect the domestic and international market demand. The designer showed two of its projects as full-size mock-ups at the show in Zhukovsky.
One was the Kamov Ka-135 piston-powered coaxial-rotor UAV helicopter, with a take-off weight of 300 kg. The vehicle has a payload capacity of up to 100 kg, operational radius of 100 km and maximum endurance of 3.5 hours. Possible applications include environmental monitoring and patrol duties.
The other UAV project, Korshun, is based on the Patrul 500-kg light helicopter by the Kumertau aircraft plant. Korshun is a medium-range vehicle with a 300-km operational radius, 6-hour endurance, and capable of carrying a 100-kg mission payload. The system will be available in different mission-specific versions: for surveillance, freight transportation, and as a data relay system for isolated areas.
Most unmanned systems out there are dual-use products. Judging form their characteristics, the Russian Helicopters UAVs can have both civilian and military applications. The plan is to achieve maximum operational flexibility: the systems’ modular design will reduce the assembly and deployment times, and there will be three to four different types of interchangeable payloads.
According to Bebeshko, developing a UAV platform poses no difficulties to an experienced rotorcraft specialist. There are, however, certain problems with aircraft controls. Russian Helicopters has launched an effort to create an automatic UAV control system that could be used in all flight phases. In order to cut the costs and time of development, the prototype will be tested on a Patrul platform.
Some of the Russian Helicopters enterprises have prior experience developing unmanned systems. The Kamov design bureau worked on the Ka-37 and Ka-137 UAV rotorcraft projects in its time, and the Mil helicopter plant once looked into building an unmanned version of its Mi-34 light helicopter. So it is no accident that the two enterprises now have the key role in the parent company’s UAV program, and select suppliers depending on the requirements of each individual project. So far the company is investing its own funds, but there is hope that financial support will be provided by the Defense Ministry if it selects some of the suggested unmanned aircraft.

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