This year’s Singapore Airshow 2012, held in the Asia-Pacific city-state in February, featured many companies from the region touting their new and emerging aircraft, while many U.S. companies maintained a presence but had little new wares and product releases.
By Danielle Lucey
Unmanned systems companies from Europe and Israel focused on partnering with companies in the region and improving the capabilities of their current unmanned lineup. One of the most conspicuous unmanned systems at the show came from Elbit Systems, which showed off its Hermes 900 full-sized model debut at the show. The Hermes 900 has a larger payload bay, extended flight time and flexible payload configurations. “Especially when budgets are being cut, you need something versatile,” says Elad Aharonson, executive vice president and general manager for Elbit Systems’ UAS division. The company previously sold the Hermes 450 to Singapore and would like to follow that up with the 900. The company also released a new hyperspectral imaging sensor, useful for conditions which electro-optical or thermal imaging is not enough, says Aharonson. “We believe with the UAV business, it’s very important to have a good aircraft, but this is only the beginning of the story,” says Aharonson. The product could be useful in both the military and the civilian sectors, in applications like searching for shallow land mines, says Aharonson. Swedish company CybAero has experience selling to the Asia-Pacific region through a partnership the company has with local dealer Stratech Systems. The company would like to expand its sales to China’s civil market, the only sector that is clear for export, says Niklas Nyroth, director of sales and marketing for CybAero. “The Chinese market is an extremely hot market,” he says. The company’s prime UAV, the Apid 60 vertical takeoff and landing system, is a multipurpose aircraft that can also be used in the maritime environment. By far the largest booth presence at the show was Singapore’s homegrown ST Engineering. Its ST Aerospace division showed the company’s Skyblade IV, which will go into production in the second half of 2012, according to Milly Tay, vice president of the company’s UAV Business sector. Two years prior at the Singapore air show, the product was undergoing testing with no release date in sight. The company also showed its new Skyblade 360, which is still under development. The craft will run for three hours in a battery configuration, which ST Aerospace hopes to release sometime in 2013. A second configuration of the aircraft, using a fuel cell battery, will be in the works after that, says Tay. Unmanned systems companies from America were scarcer at the show, with many hot-selling brands conspicuously missing; however, many of the companies that did maintain a presence were the U.S.’ behemoth-sized defense contractors. Northrop Grumman’s Walt Kreitler, the company’s director of business development, reinforced the company’s commitment to its Global Hawk, particularly the U.S. Navy’s continued backing of its Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program. The maritime-rated Block 20 variant was not a part of the recent U.S. budget cuts, like the company’s Block 30. The company even plans on making one more BAMS version of the Global Hawk than the Navy is asking for, Kreitler says, for now, just so the company can have one. Like Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk, Honeywell’s T-Hawk had a high-profile role in Asia when it aided in response to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Jesse Ellis, director of program management for the company’s Asia-Pacific aftermarket in its Defense and Space sector, said that Japan has realized from that event that the country doesn’t have the capability to perform the duties T-Hawk provided with a homegrown system. Honeywell has been talking to a number of Asia-Pacific customers, and the company would like to make the T-Hawk available to them for applications like fire fighting and emergency response.