UAE defence conglomerate Edge and weapons maker Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will jointly develop advanced unmanned surface vessels (USVs) for military and commercial use.
Edge subsidiary ADSB will collaborate with IAI to develop a series of 170 m-USVs, the companies said in a joint statement on Thursday during the Dubai Airshow. ADSB specialises in the building, repair, maintenance, refit and conversion of naval and commercial vessels.
ADSB will design the platform, integrate the control systems and payload, and develop the concept of operations. IAI will develop the autonomous control system and integrate various mission-payloads to the control system units according to the mission requirements.
"Through this strategic alliance, we can ensure optimal autonomous operational solutions that minimise risk to human life, address key challenges for various industries, and enable a secure future for all," Faisal Al Bannai, chief executive and managing director of Edge Group, said. "These developments will open many doors for us in local and global markets, military and commercial alike.”
Comprising advanced sensors, sonars and imaging systems that are integrated into a unified command and control system, the USV can operate either remotely, semi-autonomously or autonomously, requiring no human intervention, according to the statement.
Military uses for the USV include intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, border patrol, maritime security operations, mine detection and sweeping, submarine detection and anti-submarine warfare and deployment platform for VTOL vehicles, the companies said.
It can also be customised for commercial uses such as oceanography, pollution monitoring, oil and gas exploration, transportation of materials and liquids, search and rescue, fire-fighting and first interventions, they said.
The preliminary agreement "brings together the best technological knowhow from both companies – Edge Group’s and ADSB’s naval and commercial vessel expertise, and IAI’s expertise in autonomous systems, robotics, and artificial intelligence – for a joint Made in UAE effort, maximising both companies business opportunities and growth," Boaz Levy, president and chief executive of IAI, said.
The statement did not provide details on the value of the deal or when production is scheduled to start.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed at Dubai Airshow - in pictures
Edge and IAI also signed an agreement to establish a maintenance centre for a selection of IAI's systems in the UAE. In addition to maintenance, the centre will advance local marketing of these systems. The agreement covers electro-optics advanced systems, including IAI's Plug-in Optronic Payload (POP) systems, Mini-POP and Multi-Sensors Optronic Stabilised Payload surveillance payloads for land, naval and air applications.
"This agreement with a leading global industry player such as IAI will create many opportunities for the expansion of Electro-Optical/Infra-Red services here in the UAE and further afield," Omar Al Zaabi, senior vice president and head of programme acquisition at Edge, said.
"By combining IAI’s expertise in the field and our own experience in providing advanced solutions locally, we can expedite complex maintenance processes for the benefit of our customers, while expanding the scope of collaboration on future opportunities," he said.
Both companies will also form a standing joint committee to identify opportunities in this field within the UAE, and to expand future co-operation in other countries.
The deals come after the UAE and Israel established diplomatic relations last year.