The new mini-drone weighs 14.5 kg on takeoff. Electrically driven by battery power, the drone is inaudible from a distance of 200 meters
by Pierre Tran

PARIS — Thales presented its Spy'Ranger, a mini UAV, in New Delhi, about three months ago as part of the French electronics company’s search for a local partner to pitch its drone to the Indian Army. 

The search continues. 

The Indian requirement is for an estimated 200 mini UAV systems, but there is uncertainty over whether there would be two or three units in a system, said Pascal Sécretin, Thales product line manager for mini UAVs at the Brétigny-sur-Orge airfield.

Thales is in talks with private and state-owned Indian companies to pick a local industrial partner following New Delhi’s request for information last year.

Thales would supply Spy'C — a command and control software package — and payloads while the Indian partner would build the drone.

Various payloads, including chemical detection, are being considered.

The C2 software was tested for a year in Afghanistan with the French Army, he said.

The mini UAV proposed for the Indian Army is an export version of the drone acquired in December 2016 by the Direction Générale de l’Armement for the French Army.

That French order was seen as key in winning foreign sales.

Production of an initial batch of 35 systems for France is due to start mid-2018 with a delivery during the first quarter of 2019, the executive said.

There is an option for a further 35 systems, with the deal worth €104.3 million (U.S. $116.7 million). A system comprises three units and a control system.

One of the key French specifications is to protect the mini drone from electronic jamming, he said.

On the British Watchkeeper, Thales held with the Royal Navy a two-day exercise, dubbed Unmanned Warrior, in October. The event took place on Cardigan Bay off the western coast of Wales, fielding the tactical UAV for the first time in a U.K. naval exercise, said Nick Miller, UAS sales and business development manager.

That exercise was intended to extend the UAV to fly maritime and homeland security operations out to 150 kilometers over water.

There are also studies to fly the Watchkeeper from the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, which is seen as a long-term prospect.