New UAE-made drone helicopter can deliver 300kg of cargo or humanitarian aid

Edge's GY 300 drew the crowds at Abu Dhabi drone conference as unmanned systems enter the mainstream

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A new type of drone helicopter that can operate in rough terrain, fly to remote locations and deliver payloads of up to 300kg has been unveiled at a major exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

The launch of the UAE-made heavy-duty cargo drone at the Unmanned Systems Exhibition and Conference (Umex) underlined how drones are entering the mainstream.

The remotely-piloted GY 300 is manufactured by UAE defence conglomerate Edge, and can drop vital medical supplies and help deliver humanitarian relief after a natural disaster, for example.

“What we have increasingly been seeing, particularly in autonomous spaces, is a real growing demand for logistics and transport capability,” Miles Chambers, Edge’s vice president of international business, told The National on Tuesday.

End users want to increasingly remove personnel from dangerous environments or areas that might be high risk
Miles Chambers, vice president, Edge

“Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have mainly been used for surveillance types of operations but increasingly we see demand to move cargo.”

The helicopter was one of three remotely-piloted vehicles launched by Edge along with the Bunker Pro, an unmanned ground vehicle that can be used for surveillance and patrols, and the M-Buggy that is used for imaging applications.

But the undoubted star of the show was the drone helicopter. It stood alongside other Edge military drones and just a short distance from a Turkish Bayraktar. Crowds of people went to the Edge pavilion, the largest at the event, to see it.

The GY 300 has a fuel engine; can travel up to 400km; and measures 2.8m by 5.1m by 1.2m. Its rotor diameter is 11m. It has a cruise speed of about 120 kph and a maximum speed of 160 kph and can operate at up to 3.6km (12,000ft). They tend to be custom made, depending on the order.

Mr Chambers said Edge had essentially taken the concept of a gyrocopter and turned it into an unmanned system known as a “autogyro”.

It is remotely-piloted but also has autonomous capabilities such as a flight path that can be programmed in advance. “No one is getting tired so you can continually use these for sustained operations,” he said.

Mr Chambers noted the drone market had been in existence for decades, which meant it was already quite mature, but now these systems are increasingly being used in civil applications as much as military ones. Take, for example, a company or entity wishing to monitor an oil or gas pipeline.

“Historically one would deploy a lot of people, either on the ground with vehicles or by using a [manned] helicopter to go and see if there is any damage or any leaks in the pipeline. Today you can deploy UAVs,” he said.

“Our unmanned ground vehicles, for example, can be used [for] logistics resupply, medical evacuation, and even for things such as border patrol.

“Instead of hundreds of personnel to do that, you can use technology to your advantage and only deploy people where they need to be. It is about using technology to be able to deal with what used to be mundane, routine tasks.”

Edge did not disclose a cost for the drone helicopter but it is ready for the market. Typical customers for this type of product tend to be government agencies as UAVs are becoming “more and more mainstream”.

“We see an increasing usage of UAVs in what traditionally would have been performed by manned aircraft – be that in a military application or civil application,” said Mr Chambers.

“End users want to increasingly remove personnel from dangerous environments or areas that might be high risk. And being able to use autonomous systems to do that, obviously, is an advantage to everyone.”

Umex is running alongside the Simulation and Training Exhibition (Simtex) and, according to the organisers, is the biggest event in its history with an expected 214 companies from 35 countries present.

Eleven countries are participating for the first time and about 18,000 attendees are expected.

The event, which concludes on Thursday, also includes live shows, aerial shows off site at Sweihan Hills and talks from industry experts.

Updated: January 24, 2024, 9:29 AM