Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER® S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) is a proven capability for military and civilian applications. ESD had the opportunity to talk to Neil Hunter, Director of Business Development at Schiebel Corporation.
ESD: What are your company’s historical roots? In terms of capabilities and products, what developments has the company been subject to since its foundation?
Hunter: The Schiebel Group, based in Vienna/Austria, was founded in 1951 and focuses on the development and production of state-of-the-art mine detection equipment and high-tech VTOL Unmanned Air Systems.
Development of the AN-19/2 Mine Detecting Set for the Swedish Army marked the company’s entry into the international market. Further orders from various NATO countries followed and strengthened Schiebel’s world market position.
The major breakthrough and world market leadership was achieved in 1991, when Schiebel won the contract for the AN-19/2 Mine Detecting Set, designated AN/PSS-12, as standard equipment for the U.S. Army. As a consequence, the company has built an excellent international reputation for the development and production of quality products for military and counter-mine use.
Starting in 1994, Schiebel has also been engaged in the development of unmanned helicopters and, in early 2000, successfully launched the CAMCOPTER® 5.1 UAV System on the market. This system has undergone a complete technical redesign in the following years and was presented to the public in 2005 as the CAMCOPTER® S-100. With its integrated autonomous flight control and unique performance data, this unique VTOL platform won the first major contract for Schiebel from the United Arab Emirates. The CAMCOPTER® S-100 thus gained a worldwide leading position in the rapidly expanding UAS market.
Growing international interest in the CAMCOPTER® S-100 required the construction of a new production facility in Wiener Neustadt, 40 km south of Vienna. Opened in 2006, this eye-catching, innovative, contemporary design, combines form with functionality and efficiency, much like the S-100 itself. The facility unites generous capacity and location close to Schiebel’s test and demonstration grounds, making it an ideal facility for production, research and development of the CAMCOPTER® S-100.
Since 2010, Schiebel further expanded its technical services with the launch of its Carbon Composites Division, offering high quality custom-made composite services.
To better serve customers worldwide, Schiebel maintains offices in Washington, DC (USA), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and Shoalhaven (Australia). Schiebel employs around 300 people worldwide.
Schiebel is EN 9100 certified for quality management systems in the aviation, space and defense industry.
ESD: What are the technology segments and markets that Schiebel is presently covering?
Hunter: Mine detection equipment, carbon composites and the CAMCOPTER® S-100 UAS, as described above.
ESD: The CAMCOPTER has become a global success story. What does your customer base look like today, and what are the civilian and military applications of this UAS?
Hunter: Thanks to the great variety of payloads the Schiebel CAMCOPTER® S-100 is able to carry, it is the perfect asset for a whole range of diverse applications: from power line inspections to anti-smuggling operations, from scanning the sea to leading the fleet, from border control to Search and Rescue. With 16 active customers from all over the world and well over 300 systems sold, the CAMCOPTER® S-100 remains by far the most successful and proven Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) UAS of its class. It is currently operated by the UAE Army and the Australian Army, as well well as various Western European navies, amongst others.
ESD: What is it that qualifies the CAMCOPTER for maritime and naval applications?
Hunter: There are several key advantages of using Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) unmanned systems in a maritime environment. As a VTOL platform, the Schiebel CAMCOPTER® S-100 doesn’t require a runway or landing equipment and has a minimal footprint, which is perfect for OPVs with small deck sizes. In a typical configuration with a 34 kg payload, the S-100 provides a beyond line-of-sight capability out to 200 km at a service ceiling of up to 5,500 m, delivering a mission-critical aerial view. Furthermore, the S-100 can carry multiple payloads simultaneously and can be reconfigured relatively quickly, offering significant payload flexibility to the user.
The demand for the use of VTOL unmanned systems by coast guards and navies is growing steadily. Maritime operations are particularly prevalent with Schiebel customers such as the French Navy. The CAMCOPTER® S-100 has completed thousands of takeoffs and landings from 30+ different ships, qualifying it as the most reliable, proven choice for the maritime environment.
We are also currently under contract with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), and anticipate providing simultaneous maritime surveillance services at several sites with various European entities, including coast guards, in fulfilment of the contract.
ESD: Are you continuing to envisage the German Navy as a potential customer for the CAMCOPTER?
Hunter: Schiebel’s interest in and commitment to the German market remains strong and we are truly convinced that the S-100 is the best option for any modern European navy.
ESD: What is the development potential of the CAMCOPTER? Does Schiebel invest efforts in activities for other solutions in the area of unmanned systems?
Hunter: We are confident that the need for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will continue to grow and that the Schiebel CAMCOPTER® S-100 is in the best position to remain the market-leader in its class of UAVs for land-based and maritime operations. Schiebel reinvests 20% of its profits into research and development to ensure that the CAMCOPTER remains at the cutting-edge of innovation.
ESD: In terms of payload and mission equipment fit, what are the options and possibilities that the CAMCOPTER can offer to your customers?
Hunter: Rotary-wing UAVs can typically carry multiple payloads at the same time. The CAMCOPTER® S-100 can fly with a maximum take-off weight of 200 kg. The payload can be split between fuel and sensors, so you can have two, three or four different sensors on board simultaneously. The combination of a top-of-the-line EO/IR camera and a wide area search sensor is a particularly useful configuration in a maritime as well as land-based environment. Optional payloads include Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) scanners, Ground Penetrating Radar for detecting IEDs, SIGINT, as well as underslung loads. We are especially proud of the fact that Schiebel will be the first company to offer a highly productive maritime radar on a rotary tactical UAS. Schiebel is always looking to integrate the newest, cutting-edge payloads that meet the demands of the market and add value for customers’ operational needs. In this context we are also working with Ultra Electronics, which makes sonobuoys that sit and listen for submarines, to give the CAMCOPTER S-100 an ASW capability.
ESD: What are the rules and limitations that apply to the CAMCOPTER in export programmes?
Hunter: Every export of the CAMCOPTER® S-100 needs a prior approval of the Austrian authorities and must comply with the country’s as well as European export restrictions and regulations.
The interview was conducted by Peter Bossdorf.