Skate Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS), United States of America


The Skate small unmanned aerial system (SUAS) designed and manufactured by Aurora Flight Sciences is suitable for military, law enforcement and civil applications. The air vehicle offers high performance and mission flexibility.

It can be deployed by tactical units to perform intelligence, airborne surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition and detection, situational awareness and search-and-rescue operations. It can also be deployed in mobile and dismounted patrol duties, and static position security.

The Skate unmanned system made its debut at the Farnborough International Airshow in July 2010. It was integrated with SRI International Sarnoff's DL Micro digital data link and video processor in October 2012 to transmit quality imagery and video in real time.

Skate SUAS orders, deliveries and deployment

Aurora Flight Sciences received a contract from the US Air Force's Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) to deliver a Skate SUAS for the Urban Beat Cop (UBC) programme in December 2011.

Global Observer is a new high-altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) developed by AeroVironment in collaboration with the US Department of Defence (DoD) and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Boston area Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (MetroLEC) signed an agreement with Aurora Flight Sciences to procure Skate for its Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) law enforcement operations, in October 2012.

The SUAS was deployed to support aerial survey operations in Peru in August 2012. The AFRL also deployed the Skate in September 2013 to provide in-theatre training and logistics assessment for military missions in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Skate SUAS design and features

The Skate SUAS features compact, modular fixed-wing airframe, and supports vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) flight. It is water-resistant and requires no dedicated launch or recovery equipment. The vehicle is transportable by law enforcement and first responder vehicles.

The man-packable unmanned air system requires less operating and maintenance costs. The system, consisting of two aircraft, a ground control system and spares, weighs 3.4kg, while the air vehicle alone weighs 1kg. The drone has a length of 0.48m and wingspan of 0.61m, and can carry a payload of 0.2kg.

It can be deployed in five minutes and can operate in fully-autonomous mode with way-point navigation as well as in stabilised fly-by-camera control mode.

Payloads attached to the Skate SUAS

The Skate SUAS is equipped with substantial and hot-swappable sensor payloads to provide high resolution infrared (IR) imagery and video during day and night in urban / congested environments.

The standard electro-optical (EO) payload pod is configured with three aperture, full-motion video (FMV) colour video cameras, which can be expanded to up to six apertures. The IR payload pod is configured with twin aperture EO / IR payload pod and FLIR Tau 320 / Tau 640 LWIR cameras. A high definition (HD) video payload pod is attached to capture 1080p HD video and digital imagery.

The air system can be optionally fitted with chemical taggant deployment pod, custom-tailored payload pod and laser illumination for EO / IR payload pod.

Communication systems aboard the SUAS

The Skate unmanned system is equipped with digital data link (DDL) with AES128 / AES256 encryption standard to transmit secure video and data to the ground control system. The data link operates at a frequency of 1.8GHZ or 2.4GHZ. The vehicle is also fitted with a global positioning system for navigation.

"The Skate aerial system is operated by a ground control station that features lightweight, modular design."

Details of the ground control station

The Skate aerial system is operated by a ground control station (GCS) that features lightweight, modular design. The GCS is equipped with integrated video display and hand controller.

Skate SUAS propulsion and performance

The Skate unmanned air system is powered by twin independently articulating motor pods developing thrust vectoring. The motor pods provide quick conversion between vertical and horizontal flight.

The drone can fly at speeds ranging from 5kts to 50kts, whereas the cruise speed is 20kts. The highly manoeuvrable air system can operate for up to one hour.

The aerial vehicle has a range of 3.5km using a standard omni-directional antenna. It can achieve a range of more than 5km using an optional directional antenna. It can execute missions at an altitude of 400ft above the ground level and at 14,000ft mean sea level.

The Global Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Market 2011-2021

This project forms part of our recent analysis and forecasts of the global unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) market available from our business information platform Strategic Defence Intelligence. For more information click here or contact us: EMEA: +44 20 7936 6783; Americas: +1 415 439 4914; Asia Pacific: +61 2 9947 9709 or via email.

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