Patroller, a multimission drone
Could you give us a brief description of the Patroller drone system?
Patroller is a multi-sensor tactical drone, designed for land or maritime surveillance and operational support missions. It weighs about one ton and offers 24 hours of endurance, with a 250 kilo payload and an optronics observation pod that operates day or night. Both takeoff and landing are automated, and take less than 600 meters. It doesn't require any special braking system, like arresting cables, and can be deployed from any type of airfield, even a simple grass runway. It can be operated by just two mechanics. Two operators take care of flight control, from a ground control station.
What are its main advantages?
First, its modular design. Sagem designed a multi-sensor, scalable system, adaptable to each type of mission (see box). Another quality is its low observability. The aircraft is powered by a centrally-mounted engine, with its exhaust pointed skyward. That attenuates its infrared signature, makes it stealthy and above all very quiet, an essential quality for surveillance missions.
What type of experience does Sagem have on tactical drones?
For over 15 years now, Sagem has supplied tactical drones to the French armed forces and to other countries. We drew on our proven technological and industrial expertise, plus nine years of deployment by three countries, to develop the new-generation Patroller tactical drone, using our own funds. We have carried out extensive tests in France since 2010 to validate the onboard equipment and receive flightworthiness certificates, and we have performed demonstrations in France and abroad.
The Patroller was developed in France; could you tell us a bit more about the production process?
More than 100 Sagem employees in France are working on this program. It was developed at our Eragny plant, then built in Montluçon, with the optronics pod assembled in Dijon and the electronics in Fougères. Only the airframe was made abroad, in Germany, by Ecarys, a specialist in high-performance composite airframes. The new-generation optronics pod, soon to be installed on the Patroller, is the result of a partnership between Thales and Sagem, through their Optrolead joint venture.
Patroller's multiple mission capabilities The Patroller drone can be configured in a variety of ways to meet user requirements:
- Theater surveillance: electronic warfare, radio-communications interception and location, activity detection, threat identification, etc.
- Maritime surveillance: detection of all maritime activity, identification of suspicious boats, etc.
- Homeland surveillance: borders, coasts, roads, police missions, protection during major events or for high-value sites, natural disaster prevention and management.
- The drone's multi-sensor design means that, depending on mission requirements, it can be fitted with extra fuel tanks, a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), a maritime radar, laser rangefinder, laser designator, communications or electronic intelligence sensors (COMINT, ELINT), etc. It can also be fitted with a "see and avoid" module, allowing it to operate in civil airspace.