UMS SKELDAR’s Training Director and former RAF officer Ewen Stockbridge Sime, blogs from the Asia Pacific about the increasing interest in unmanned aerial vehicle technologies. Ewen is responsible for delivering ISR, pilot and ground control crew training worldwide to civilian and military customers. He was also instrumental in introducing ISR as a capability to the UK Military and in assisting the US Air Force to understand and implement tactical real time intelligence generation.
Walking around Singapore, you get the impression of growth: There are buildings being erected at every turn, shops are busy and cafes crowded. All is well and prosperous. Or so it seems.
Scratch the surface and you see both an awareness and an anxiety that is (unfortunately) a global phenomenon. Here, the words “Paris” and “Germany” are often used to refer to terror attacks. These small scale, yet devastating events, are more culturally relevant than the reference I was born to around 9/11. The relevance is so great that there has been a subtle change in cultural philosophy. As little as one year ago, the tag line “we are prepared” used to ring true for Singaporeans; now you hear “we are prepared to recover”: an admittance that a “Paris”, “Germany” or even “Mumbai” event cannot be defended. The enemy is too dispersed, it is too low contrast.
I leave Singapore and travel to Jakarta. Again, I am confronted by evidence of growth and wealth. Buildings, infrastructure and a desire to become a regional big hitter are prevalent around me. But again there is an awareness that all is not well. Recent domestic terror attacks have left an un said but tangible effect. But short of giving up to global issues, both Singapore and Indonesia are striving hard to manage borders and protect natural wealth.
Against this back drop it is not surprising to discover that the security budgets have been increased and that in Indonesia the interest in Unmanned Air Systems has rocketed. The UAV market in Asia Pacific is growing fast with Frost and Sullivan reporting it the second biggest buyer after the US. In 2011, the region as a whole spent $590m (£376m) on UAVs, with Frost and Sullivan estimating that this figure could rise to $1.4bn by 2017.
“For all of those organisations in the defence sector that invested heavily in UAV platforms, they need to focus on the Asia- Pacific market, given the military budget cuts in Europe and US,” said Bruno Mucciolo, from Frost and Sullivan.
In 2016, the Orangutan Conservancy believes there are only about 45,000 orangutans remaining in Borneo and Sumatra. Shockingly, the number was about 60,000 – 66,000 as recent as a decade ago.
At this rate of loss, many experts believe orangutans could be extinct in the wild in less than 25 years.
The main threats in today to the survival of orangutans:
- Loss of habitat through deforestation
- Palm oil plantations
- Illegal hunting
- Illegal pet trade
Orangutans have lost well over 80% of their habitat in the last 20 years, and an estimated one-third of the wild population died during the fires of 1997-98.
The reason for this dramatic increase is simple to understand: there is a perceived threat and there is money available. Indonesia, for example, is vast and boasts the largest border of any country. Indonesia is also dispersed over 13,000 islands spanning two continents. The country is a melting pot of ethnic and religious people, and it is keen to defend its identity and its new found wealth.
Over this expanse, the use of aircraft is key as airpower brings speed, agility and capability. And aircraft now means Unmanned Air Systems. In the mission areas such as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), the UAS is (or will be) key to success. These ISR missions are often long and laborious and lend themselves to UAS capabilities. And just like Thunder Bird 2, UAS can be configured to meet the demands of most environments, be that land, sea or air with sensors interchanged to meet the demands of the environment or the characteristic of the target. For Indonesia this flexibility is key, for as an Island nation the ability to understand land and sea is critical.
Recently, UMS SKELDAR has been working with local partners to introduce UAVs to the Indonesian MoD. The project is to develop an indigenous UAS called the Rajawali 330 based on the UMS F-330. This year the team has been working very hard to meet the demands of the timeline and last week travelled to Jakarta for the last Test and Evaluation on the system.
“Confidence is high, but in aviation nothing is certain”. And so against stormy skies, the Rajawali 330 took off for the four missions that would result in success or failure of the project. As the external pilot took the aircraft to the skies, all eyes followed. The aircraft performed beautifully and circled overhead, waiting for the Ground Control Station to take control. The three sensors, Tetracam Multi Spectral Imaging system, the PhaseOne Hi Res still camera and the CM 100 video camera, were all tested rigorously and successfully. There were minor glitches during the flying, but the team rose above everything and in the end flew four fantastic missions. As Martin brought in the aircraft for the last time there was a resounding applause from the on lookers – praise indeed as these onlookers represented the Indonesian Ministry of Defence and Army.
Environmental and security issues across Indonesia and South East Asia require constant vigilance. Indonesia – 54,716 km (33,998 miles) is an archipelago composed of many islands, and boasts the second longest coastline in the world.
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