180719 SpectatorThe use of low-payload unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been growing in importance and intensity over the recent years. UAVs provide benefits in terms of life saving (zero risk to aircrews), extremely shallow learning curve for new users, stealth of operation, as well as low cost of operation and maintenance. UAV technologies hold a great potential for handling complex, diversified combat missions in a variety of battlefield and tactical scenarios.

 

Mini UAVs have been extensively deployed in conflicts of various intensities across the globe, where they proved to be especially effective in battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance roles. A wide variety of gimbaled and mission-independent payloads available for these platforms would expand their functionalities to include most particularly electronic warfare and signal intelligence. Besides, they can be configured for air-to-ground attack roles, but the choice of weapons payloads is limited by the weight and size constraints inherent with these small factor UAVs.

 

The most commonly used payload packages for these platforms are optimized for conducting surveillance and reconnaissance for company-sized battlefield units; gathering battlefield intelligence; spotting artillery fire; surveying oil and gas pipelines; monitoring border areas and the likes.

 

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UAV "Spectator-M" is operational with the State Border Guard Service, with 11 systems in service so far

 

Spectator-M is a representative of this category of small-factor UAVs. It was cooperatively developed in 2014 by Politeko Aero, Kyiv, and the National Technical University “Kyiv Polytechnic Institute” to meet the requirement of the Ukrainian military’s special operations forces, and has been commercially produced by Ukroboronprom Holding Company’s Korolev Meridian JSC, Kyiv.

 

In 2014 at Honchariv test and training facility outside Chernihiv, Northern Ukraine, the Spectator-M UAV had its capabilities tested when on a flight. It proved its capabilities to search and find targets on the ground and to calculate their position coordinates; capture imagery for reconnaissance purposes, day and night and in all weathers; perform autotracking of targets; capture master images of objects, and to feed live footage to the command center. The tests proved that the Spectator-M is able to fly missions in sub-zero temperatures and to operate in low-light conditions.

 

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 UAV control panel

 

The Spectator-M is a hand-launched, T-tail high-wing monoplane (parasol) constructed mainly of composite materials. For propulsion, the vehicle uses a low acoustic signature electric motor with a two-bladed propeller. In its standard configuration, the vehicle is fitted with a video camera with an embedded digital storage. To meet specific customer needs, it can optionally be equipped with a still camera, a thermal imaging camera, and an exposure dose rate meter.

 

The UAV comes complete with a ground control station, batteries, an antenna and a transport backpack.

 

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The Spectator-M is a hand-launched, T-tail high-wing monoplane (parasol) constructed mainly of composite materials.

 

The mini UAV "Spectator-M" is operational with the State Border Guard Service, with 11 systems in service so far. These are employed for monitoring national borders, especially between Ukraine and Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. The Ministry of Defense has also showed interest, but has not gone farther than to accept the Spectator-M into service for the duration of the contingency period.

 

User feedback suggests that the vehicle conforms to its declared performance, especially in terms of flying speed and maneuverability, and the practicality of use. However, there have been some complaints about poor quality and insufficient resolution of the video camera payload. To eliminate these drawbacks, Ukroboronprom is planning further enhancements to the Spectator-M UAV technology to make it more apt for the missions assigned to it.

 

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Vadym Kushnikov for UDR

 

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