Keeping an eye on the A number of companies saw the Marrakech Airshow as the perfect opportunity to display their maritime surveillance offerings. Kelly Green looks at who was there.
ustria-based Diamond Airborne Sensing, a 100% subsidiary of Diamond Aircraft Industries, returned to the Marrakech Airshow this year to introduce its fully equipped maritime surveillance patrol aircraft to the African market. Equipped with a combination of maritime radar, an EO/IR camera, an automatic identification system (AIS) and a data-link, the remote sensing platform DA42 MPP Guardian is now able to fly off-shore missions. Diamond Airborne Sensing developed a special SAR pod for the maritime radar that is mounted under the belly of the aircraft. “The radar application is brand new but the aircraft has been on the market since 2006,” explained Markus Fischer, marketing & sales director. Using Scotty – a beyond-line-of-sight satellite transmission – it is possible to transmit data from the aircraft to wherever the customer wants to have the picture. “It’s fully secure, so people can’t decode the messages we send. You can do voice, HD pictures, live media or chat; you can send this from the aircraft to the ground, or the other way round,” explained Fischer. “The whole world is fighting with budget cuts and we are actually offering a very cost-effective solution, especially in places like Africa where it’s important to have a simple solution that is reliable,” said Fischer.
Important target market He continued: “North Africa is a very important target market. We are fuel-independent and this is what they are looking for. The aircraft is also very easy to maintain and that’s also very important because helicopters are difficult to maintain. Sometimes to build up a maintenance shop takes a lot of time and is very complex. This is not what customers are looking for; they want to fly all the time.” Diamond hopes that the company’s complete package offering will appeal to the African market. “We can do everything in-house, we are independent. So the customer has us as a single point of contact, which is also important to military organisations or police forces, because they don’t want to talk to lots of different suppliers,” said Fischer. “Training, maintenance training, spare parts, ground stations, satellite communication – we offer the whole thing. We are now ready to set up a mission management system on ground and the air unit as well.” The aircraft includes a number of special
features for carrying out missions. “The aircraft is powered by our own diesel engine, which we have developed. It’s a fully-faded control, so it’s very simple to fly, which is very important if you fly missions, because the pilot has to look outside and work for the mission as well,” explained Fischer. The DA42 MPP Guardian also features an ontop exhaust system. “We changed the exhaust pipe from looking downwards to looking upwards and it’s mixed with a muffler,” Fischer explained. “We’re mixing hot air from the exhaust with cold air and that reduces the infrared signature of the aircraft to a level where people on the ground can hardly detect the aircraft. If you fly at 1,000ft then the aircraft is making less noise than a passing car, so if you fly at the typical mission altitude of 6,000-12,000ft, there’s absolutely no chance people will hear the aircraft using the on-top exhaust system. “There are two approaches to surveillance. The first is to be very noisy and very active so people know that you’re there and don’t do anything bad, or you be very quiet and don’t let the people know
that you’re there – and that is our approach.” The MPP will also come in a completely new grey military look, designed as another way of decreasing the risk of detection. “The aircraft is fully painted grey, which is more-or-less a military option because it is reducing the sun reflection,” said Fischer. Another next-generation airborne maritime surveillance platform on display was the Tecnam MRI (multi-sensor reconnaissance and identification).
Security and defence solutions The aircraft has been developed by global advanced technology security and defence solutions company INDRA, in partnership with Italian aircraft manufacturer Tecnam, SELEX Galileo, FLIR Systems and Airborne Technologies, the Austrian-based remote sensing and sensor integration company. “With Indra and our partners we have developed a solution for maritime patrol aircraft and this is the market launch – the first time we are showing the aircraft here – because the African market is a very important market to us,” said Tecnam MRI’s Alejandro Martinez Recasens. Specifically developed to patrol those maritime zones currently kept under surveillance by coastguards utilising medium-size helicopters and large maritime patrol aircraft, the Tecnam MRI offers a smaller alternative for maritime security and coastal patrol missions. “The idea is to use a small aircraft for maritime surveillance, which is cost-effective and easier to
surveillance market maintain and to fly,” Martinez explained. Also on display was Daher-Socata’s TBMMMA multi-mission configuration – a TBM 700B modified to serve as a multi-mission aircraft (MMA) demonstrator –which was being shown for the first time in Africa. “This year’s Marrakesh show provides an excellent opportunity to present the TBM-MMA for Africa, where the multi-role aircraft is perfectly tailored as a highly affordable, costeffective multi-mission airborne platform for both security and governmental operators,” said Nicolas Chabbert, senior vice president of the Daher-Socata airplane division. “It is based on the proven TBM very fast turboprop aircraft product line – which has an excellent operational and maintenance record, especially in service with the French armed forces.” In its intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) configuration, as it was shown at the event, the TBM-MMA is outfitted with a
A multitude of sensor equipment can be installed on aircraft that are more often recognised for general aviation and business use.
gyro-stabilised multi-sensor turret located under the aircraft’s aft fuselage. This electrically-driven system is fully-retractable and accommodates up to four latest-generation sensors, including infrared and electro-optical systems, along with a
laser rangefinder and a laser designator to mark targets. Control of the turret is performed from inside the cabin with a portable operator’s console that displays video images and also handles signal processing. A data recording function is available for the processing of sensor information, which can be performed aboard the aircraft or downlinked to an operational ground control station via a data transmission system. For medical evacuation missions, the TBMMMA is equipped with a stretcher and patient loader system, with the ability for rapid cabin reconfiguration to passenger seats for liaison duties. Daher-Socata believes that the TBM-MMA is well suited for armed forces, governmental agencies and contract operators, providing an answer to needs as diverse as urban security, the fight against trafficking and pollution, border and coastal surveillance, aerial detection of forest fires, medevac and other applications.
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