Australian Navy's Avalon eyes in the sky

Issue No. 5 | March 1-15, 2017Photo(s): By Australian Navy

Not all aircraft at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon actually have pilots — just ask the team at the Navy Unmanned Aircraft Systems Unit. The unit is tasked with testing two different unmanned aircraft types — the ScanEagle (fixed-wing) and the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 (rotarywing) for the Royal Australian Navy.

Lt Commander Matt Hyam is the Engineering Manager in charge of the maintenance and engineering of both unmanned aircraft systems. Most of the staff at the unit are aviation technicians, specialising in avionics or airframes.

“We only have a very small team here at Avalon this year because a lot of our technicians are currently undergoing world-class training with Schiebel in Vienna, Austria, for two months,” Lt Commander Hyam said.

“The ScanEagle is a fixed-wing, unmanned aircraft focused on providing commanders with a vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability, providing a more complete battle picture,” Chief Petty Officer Hustwit said.

“At sea, the ScanEagle operates well beyond the range of a warship’s organic sensors, providing a vital eye in the sky.” The ScanEagle has been on trials by the Navy for about 18 months, with first of class trials conducted in HMA ships Choules and Newcastle.

This is the first time the Navy has displayed the Schiebel Camcopter S-100, which looks like a mini helicopter, so it is drawing the biggest crowd. “The main advantage of the Schiebel is its vertical take-off and landing capability, which saves on the deck space that would be required for a launcher,” he said.