UMS Skeldar to boost Australian presence

UMS head of business development David Willems said at PACIFIC 2017 on Tuesday.

UMS Skeldar plans to establish an Australian base for its V-200 platform in 2018 as part of efforts to boost its presence in this part of the world.

The prospect of bringing a V-200 demonstrator, along with the personnel and equipment that would involve, Down Under comes as UMS Skeldar puts its best foot forward for two Australian Defence Force programs and seeks opportunities in maritime surveillance work undertaken by civilian agencies.

“We regard the Australian market and the Pacific market as a key area of interest for us and we really want to develop our presence here and get closer to the customers,” UMS head of business development David Willems said at PACIFIC 2017 on Tuesday.

“Australia is so far away from the rest of the world that often companies like us and others neglect it and we feel that this is something that we really need to correct now.

“We will have a permanently-based platform here to demonstrate to the different stakeholders by next year. That’s the plan.”

UMS Skeldar has proposed its V-200 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in its response to a request for information (RFI) from Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) for a Maritime Tactical Unmanned Air System (MTUAS) to be operated from the Navy’s forthcoming Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV).

The VTOL unmanned helicopter is powered by a two-cylinder, in-line, two-stroke, liquid-cooled internal combustion engine from Hirth Motors that uses heavy fuel (a type of diesel). Further, its payload includes the ViDAR (visual identification detection and ranging) optical radar system from Australian company Sentient Vision Systems.

“We have responded to the RFI with Saab. I think we have made a very competitive proposal and we hope that we are shortlisted,” Willems said.

“It’s too early to hear back from them because they had a lot of responses from many companies.”

Other contenders for the requirement are likely to include the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 and Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout.

UMS Skeldar, a joint-venture between Sweden-based Saab and UMS Aero Group of Switzerland that was established in December 2015, is also offering the V-200 helicopter for the Royal Australian Navy’s Future Frigates program.

“The V-200 was designed for a multi-mission platform. It is the same one that we will use for both programs,” Willems said.

“The logistic footprint is so small that you don’t need to have a huge frigate or huge OPV to operate it. It can really take off from a small ship.”

Looking beyond military applications, UMS Skeldar has also been keen to showcase the V-200’s suitability in civilian roles.

To that end, it was announced at the Paris Airshow in June Martek Marine had selected the V-200 UAV to fulfil its European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) contract, with the aircraft to be deployed on border control operations, search and rescue operations, pollution monitoring, detecting illegal fishing, and drug and people trafficking.

Willems said the company was also looking to Australian agencies as potential customers for similar work.

“Defence is the core of customers. But the cycles are extremely long so if we were relying on that only we would be struggling,” Willems said.

“So we targeted a new type of customer, I would call them the blue forces, or government agencies such as the coast guards for instance.”

“It’s government but on the civilian side, not on the military side.”