LH Aviation is showing off the proof-of-concept vehicle of its LHD optionally piloted aircraft at Le Bourget, having recently commenced flight trials. Although the Villaroche-based company has not released any details, the LHD already has its first order and a pre-series batch is under construction. LH Aviation (Static B4) has also signed a memorandum of understanding with OISAerospace covering potential licensed production in India.
Based on the LH-10 Ellipse light aircraft and trainer, which has also spawned the manned Guardian civil security and Elfe close air support versions, the LHD can operate unmanned or with a pilot. In unmanned configuration, it has a standard endurance of eight hours, but a removable tank can be fitted in the aft cockpit bay to increase this to 24 hours.
Traditionally, UAVs with that endurance capability have featured very long wings and are slow. They can also be highly susceptible to crosswinds and turbulence, and require large hangars to accommodate them. But the LHD’s small wings minimize these issues, and also increase speed of response, which is an increasingly common requirement for UAV customers.
The LHD can fly to the operational area at 165 knots, before loitering at very low throttle settings. Its small wings also minimize radar returns and the piston engine–either Rotax 912 or diesel power-plant–has an exhaust temperature of just 95 deg F/35 deg C. A range of sensors, including radar, can be fitted as part of the 550-pound/250-kg payload, and the LHD can be weaponized.
LH Aviation has partnered with Vestel Aerospace of Turkey, which has supplied the Karayel UAV to the Turkish armed forces, to produce a certified LHD that is fully NATO-compatible. The ground control station is operated by three personnel and can be housed in a standard KC20 container. The LHD itself can be disassembled for deployment in a KC20 container, which includes an integrated workshop for reassembly and maintenance.