Inaugurated by the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, earlier this week, today, June 20, Eurosatory closes its doors. Over 1,500 exhibitors were present at this event dedicated to Land and Air-Land defense and security, referred to as ''Full Spectrum Operations'' in today's military circles. Amongst them are a number of UAV, mini-UAV, micro-UAV, and tactical or terrestrial drone manufacturers; and the market is growing.
Patrick Colas Des Francs, Commissioner General - Eurosatory Exhibition 2014 : interview in the video.
And amongst these drones, two are in direct competition with each other : the Thales Watchkeeper and the Patroller from Sagem, a subsidiary of the Safran group. The French Army wants to replace its tactical UAV,which it uses in carrying out surveillance and intelligence missions; an opportunity for both manufacturers hoping to sell around thirty units.
Some of the Patroller's assets are the ability to carry under-wing electronic pay-loads of 100 kg (220 lbs), a gyro-stabilized optronics turret incorporating a day/night camera complete with a high magnification telescope, an estimated twenty to thirty hours autonomy, and an ability to fly as high as 7,600 metres (25,000 ft).
Although the Patroller has already undergone some thirty test flights, it remains for the moment, simply a project. The Thales Watchkeeper, however, has already proved itself under very real life conditions since it is at present in service with the British Army, who has ordered 54 units, possibly for deployment in Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Regarding a few basic numbers, the Watchkeeper is not itself lacking in technical characteristics. Capable of flying at 4,800 metres (almost 16,000 ft) above sea level at a speed of 150 km/h ( > 90 mph) over an operating range of 150 km (100 miles). No one knows who will eventually win this drone combat, so we will just have to be patient for the time being because the French army is not expected to launch its call for tenders before the end of the year.