ShadowHawk Rotary UAV on Anti-Piracy Patrol in Africa

The multi-mission capable ShadowHawk Rotary UAV is an ideal tool for security on the high seas.

When is a ShadowHawk Rotary UAV drone a handy tool to have?

You are Neils Sørensen, master of MV Danica Force, a crude-oil tanker displacing more than 106,000 metric tons of deadweight. Launched in 2007 under Danish registry, your Aframax-class vessel is 754.59 feet long at the waterline, with a 137.79-foot beam and fully laden draught of more than 32.81 feet. You and your 23-man crew embarked from Saudi Arabia’s Jubail Commercial Seaport in the Persian Gulf with nearly 50 metric tons of Arabian light crude, headed for the Shell/BP Sapref Durban Refinery in Durban, South Africa. Your course will take you through the glassy waters of the Arabian Sea, past the Comoros Islands and into the Mozambique Channel to Durban, no more than 100 nautical miles off the East African coastline.

To reach port, however, you must pass Somalia, through the heart of the world’s most active and dangerous seaborne-piracy region. Your ship’s top speed is less than 12 knots, so outrunning a motorized pirate dhow is out of the question. The only weapon on board is a pistol locked in your office safe. You hope you can make this run without contact. You know the critical time is eight to 12 days out of port as you pass the Somali coast—it is the morning of the ninth day. Sure enough, a dhow is hull up to starboard and approaching fast. In the wheelhouse, you hope that it won’t engage. It keeps coming, its brazen intent all too clear. Suddenly, you see a small, almost toy-like craft fly to the dhow, then hover above it. It circles, then flies away. Just as suddenly, the dhow slows and turns in retreat as a patrol vessel appears. The dhow is fast, but the patrol boat is faster and has a bone in its teeth. You whistle slowly to hide your relieved sigh as your voyage to Durban continues, uneventful.

Serious Capabilities
Commercial seamen who ply the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean near Somalia pray for this scenario. Today, their prayers are being answered by Vanguard Defense Industries’ ShadowHawk Rotary UAV, a rotary-wing mini-UAV now handling anti-piracy surveillance missions off the East African coast. The ShadowHawk Rotary UAV is a fully autonomous craft with automatic takeoff and landing capabilities as well as waypoint navigation. The mini-UAV is just 7 feet long and weighs 49 pounds with a top speed of 70 miles per hour at altitudes up to 15,000 mean sea level. It can carry payloads up to 20 pounds and be built with either turbine or piston engines. The ShadowHawk’s rotary-wing configuration enables the UAV to launch in 25-knot winds, sustain flight through gusts of 45 knots and keep the camera stable at up to 25 knots. It carries an electro-optical and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera with a 21X lens for day or night observation. The ShadowHawk can operate up to 22 miles from its takeoff point and remain in the air up to 3 hours with a piston engine, depending on operational ceiling and payload. Turbine engine endurance is about 1 hour. The UAV can carry a light weapon load, including a grenade launcher, precision-guided munitions and less-lethal systems. The platform can also carry a laser designator capable of painting targets for ordnance delivery from other platforms. The system is designed specifically for tactical military, law enforcement and other commercial security requirements.

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