Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has deployed a next-gen UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that combines the flight capabilities of an airplane with helicopter-like hovering.
The Panther boasts a tilt-rotor propeller, along with a fixed wing vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) system which enables runway-free takeoffs and landings.
"The Panther [can be] controlled by one operator, [although] the C&C station [supports] two operators: [one] to [manage] the station and [the other to] oversee tactical missions," explained IAI CEO Itzhak Nissan.
"[The UAV] takes off and lands automatically with [just] a simple click of the operator console, [while] an automatic flight control system [supervises] the transition between the hovering takeoff phase to forward flight and vice versa."
According to Nissan, the UAV weighs approximately 65 kg and is capable of loitering for approximately 6 hours at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet, with an operation radius of over 60 km.
The Panther is also equipped with IAI's Mini-POP (Plug-in Optronic Payload), a day/night stabilized camera with a laser range finder, pointer and laser designator.
The UAV control station - which is compact enough to be transported on a mid-size vehicle - stores up to three aircraft, a ground data link, support equipment and spare parts.
"The Panther's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, along with its effective use of changing flight dynamics, makes it a unique and invaluable asset on the tactical battlefield both for the IDF and [external] customers," said Nissan.
"Prototypes of the Panther platform have [already] conducted successful flight tests and will be [fully] operational by 2011."