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French tethered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer Elistair announced the launch of its Orion Heavy Lift (HL) platform on 8 March 2023.

Designed to support the growing demand for variable-height antennas from military, public safety and homeland security customers, the Orion HL platform leverages the Orion and Orion 2 platforms used by military and security forces in over 30 countries for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The tethered UAV can carry payloads of 4 kg at 90 m or 5 kg at 50 m for flight durations of 50 hours. Elisair says the Orion HL is deployable within 15 minutes, easily transportable, and benefits from the same level of automation, ruggedisation and safety architecture as the original Orion systems.

The Elistair press release announcing the system’s launch quoted ‘Experiment Manager Tor’ from the Norwegian Army Combined Arms Battle Laboratory as stating, “We have put the Orion 2 tethered UAV system, provided by Elistairs’ Norwegian partner Northcom, through several tests during the last year’s experiment to test its limits. During these tests the system has proven to be a flexible and reliable solution capable of handling the challenging operational environment and conditions above the Arctic Circle in Norway.

“The introduction of the Heavy Lift version also provides us with a very useful tool for lifting communication equipment to create temporary communication coverage in challenging areas of operation.”

The Norwegian Army has acted as the beta tester of the Orion HL system.

Explaining the rationale behind its product line, Elistair stated in its press release, “As tactical communications evolve to match the rapidly changing needs of operators on the ground, tethered drones offer significant benefits when flexibility and mobility are critical. With the need of highly effective ground units to have increased mobility, tethered drones are enabling the establishment and extension of secured mobile networks, thanks to their rapid deployment time and persistence in the air.”

Elistair’s Orion HL tethered UAV can carry ISR or communications payloads of 4 kg to an altitude of 90 m, or 5 kg payloads to 50 m, for flight durations of 50 hours. The system has been beta tested by the Norwegian Army(Image: Elistair)

The company additionally noted that “partners can now seamlessly integrate their payloads and sensors to widen the capabilities of the platform for the end users. A beta-testing programme with selected partners allowed the successful integration of a CORDIS Array II from Radionor, a 5G relay and a signals intelligence payload.”

An Elistair spokesperson further stated to ESD about the Orion system in general, “The Orion is a tethered drone by design (performant motors, rugged structure, multiple failsafes, wind resistent), which is why it can fly for 50 hours in raw conditions, whereas a free drone tethered to a station would be limited by its structure and components, which wouldn’t be able to handle such long flights and potential changes of weather.”

Orion tethered UAVs can operate in temperatures from -10°C to 45°C and in gusts of wind up to 50 km/h.

The spokesperson noted that the Orion HL system will be available for delivery by the end of May 2023.

Peter Felstead