The chief executive of the company that recently won a $2.75 million contract to supply a bird-sized drone to the ADF says he believes the devices are a vital tool to give troops on the ground the edge.
“When [a soldier] is patrolling through the bush or the jungle or the Outback or the desert or wherever it might be, they can put them in a backpack and then it gives them great flexibility to get situational awareness and operational understanding of what’s in their immediate environment so they can throw out the drone,” said XTEK CEO Scott Basham.
Basham was speaking in Australian Aviation’s new digital In-Focus edition as part of our feature examining whether miniature drones are the next generation of defence aircraft. To find out more and subscribe, click here.
Canberra-based public company XTEK was selected in March to provide the Department of Defence with its “Wasp”, small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) drone platform.
The company delivers its ballistics armour and its small drones to Defence and is an exclusive seller of the Wasp platforms, which are owned by United States company AeroVironment.
The SUAS offering is designed to keep an eye in the sky on its opponents and will operate more discreetly than any other spy technology.
According to Basham, the Wasp was chosen due to its longstanding proven capabilities.
“Wasp, in particular, has been around for a number of years prior and is a well-proven platform and it delivers all of the capabilities including being all environment,” he said. The overall contract between the ADF and XTEK was penned a few years ago, and Basham said that only until recently, there has been a ramp-up of other locally made, capable drones.
But at the time – and still now – he believes the Wasp remains superior. “Early models of some Australian-made and other international models didn’t quite necessarily meet all of the requirements that defence was looking for at the time,” Basham said.
The Wasp is an all-environment drone, meaning it can be used anywhere and everywhere, such as in the water and high in the sky.
It has an endurance of 50 minutes, can be packed into a soldier’s bag with ease, and has a range of five kilometres line-of-sight.
When it was first announced XTEK would deliver smaller drones to defence in 2017, the Australian government nodded to their previous success in Afghanistan and Iraq, and said it wanted that same capability for Australia.
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