Russia 'to buy two UAE-made drones'

Abu Dhabi company Adcom Systems has been contacted by at least 10 nations.

DUBAI // Russia is planning to buy "at least two" of the first drones to be developed in the UAE.

The country's military intends to purchase aerial drones from Abu Dhabi company Adcom Systems, according to a Russian defence industry official who was quoted yesterday by the Russian state news agency, RIA Novosti.

"We are talking about at least two United 40 Block 5 models developed by the company Adcom Systems," the source told the agency.

The United Yabhon 40 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

It is designed to carry out near real-time combat assessments, special and reconnaissance operations, and communications relays.

According to Dr Ali Al Dhaheri, the chief designer of the drone and chairman of Adcom Systems, it can carry up to 10 air-to-ground missiles with a delivery range of 60 kilometres each, while flying for up to 120 hours.

He said yesterday that the Russian government had shown an interest in the drones.

"There is a lot of interest from the Russian authorities and we are conducting numerous demonstrations of the aircraft," he said.

"We will be presenting the aircraft and doing further demonstrations of it at the Moscow Air Show at the end of next month."

According to the Russian news agency, the country's military has a need for advanced reconnaissance systems following the brief military conflict with Georgia in August 2008, when the effectiveness of Russian military operations was severely hampered by a lack of reliable intelligence.

Various estimates indicate that Russia needs up to 100 UAVs and at least 10 guidance and control systems to ensure effective battlefield reconnaissance.

The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said last month that aerial drones being developed in Russia were inferior to similar foreign models, the news agency reported.

Dr Al Dhaheri said the United Yabhon 40 was designed for strategic missions such as combat and battle damage assessment, intelligence preparation of a battlefield, special and reconnaissance operations, humanitarian aid, border surveillance and communications relay.

The planes can cruise at speeds of between 75kph and 220kph, fly to 7,010 metres and are powered by a 115-horsepower main engine and an 80hp electric engine.

Dr Al Dhaheri said that so far, Adcom had been approached by more than 10 countries who were interested in acquiring the UAE's latest military export.

"This plane is new but we have more than 10 countries from the northern hemisphere, east and west," he said.

"By the end of the year we expect to have two or three large contracts for the UAV.

"We will also be largely pushing into the South American market."

A drone will cost between US$20 million (Dh73.5m) and $30m.

Dr Al Dhaheri said in March that sales projections for the United Yabhon 40 were about $500m this year and about $41.5 billion in the next few years.

Over the past 24 years, Adcom has progressed from building missiles to developing strategic radars. The company now also creates advanced communications systems.