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Eye in The Sky
July 29, 2011   
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FlyEye is the first wholly Polish-made unmanned short-range reconnaissance aircraft for military observation missions that are difficult or impossible to carry out by other means.

It is hand-launched and performs a fast near-vertical takeoff. It weighs 11 kg and its parts can be carried in a large backpack. Assembly takes 10-15 minutes. FlyEye can stay in the air for about three hours, reaching an altitude of 4,000 m and cruising at a speed of up to 100 kph. The craft carries an observation head, with cameras, that ensures a stable image even in very demanding weather. The flight and landing can be performed in fully automatic mode. The device was designed by engineers from Gliwice-based Flytronic, a company from WB Electronics group, the biggest private Polish arms company.

FlyEye has a wingspan of 3.9 meters and a silent electrical engine, which makes it difficult to detect. For the time being, only the military can use it. Several such planes were delivered to the Polish army early this year.

Unmanned aircraft with specific characteristics

The craft’s main designer, Wojciech Szumiński, said the idea was to develop an unmanned aircraft with specific characteristics that would differ from other similar devices. It employs a unique steep-angle system enabling a nearly vertical takeoff. That means it can be launched from small, enclosed sites in urban areas or forest clearances. The flight can be manually controlled from the control station or fully autonomous, based on a pre-programmed flight plan that can be manually modified during the flight.

Fly-Eye also has a unique system for retrieving the usable load (for the time being, a camera, but this could be any other device or cargo). The section holding the observation head is detached several meters above ground and lands on a parachute in a precisely designated area. The craft itself lands glider-style within 10 meters of the head. The landing procedure is autonomous, and the autopilot calculates the landing path with regard to wind force and direction.

The craft uses an advanced two-sensor optoelectronic observation head with a daylight and infrared sensor, equipped with a remotely controlled observation angle system and a remotely controlled optical zoom system. A multi-axis camera stabilization system guarantees excellent image quality and stability, even in very difficult weather. Observation heads can be easily and quickly replaced.

FlyEye employs a modern Polish-made digital data transmission system for coded transmission of data (image, telemetric data, remote control), within the harmonized NATO command band or any other as required by the user.

The system employs directional and omnidirectional antennas installed on a special head that automatically monitors the craft’s location. It ensures high-quality image compression and transmission that nearly eliminates distortions typical for currently used analog systems. Data transmission connection has a range of 25 km, but if the ground station is moving, the flight range may be up to 300 km.

View from above

FlyEye was unveiled in June 2010 at the Eurosatory defense industry exhibition in Paris. Earlier it was demonstrated to potential foreign customers at several private sessions. WB Electronics owns full documentation and rights to the craft’s technology and its parts, including onboard computer, data transmission systems and on-ground systems for analysis of data obtained in the air. The project is under constant development; last year it won a tender announced by the Polish army.

FlyEye offers a wide range of applications, such as observation in military, police or special operations, control of the state borders, control of strategic objects in increased-risk situations, observation of mass events for ensuring public safety, flood control, monitoring of power lines or map charting.

Flytronic collaborates with other scientific centers, including the Silesian University of Technology and the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Informatics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Gliwice. It employs experts in all fields of new technology. With the help of European Union funds, the company is building a new headquarters in Gliwice, plus a hangar at the local airfield. With this project, the company hopes to expand into a full-fledged research and development center.

Ewa Dereń
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