March 31, 2014      

CybAero has signed a deal to provide its APID 60 unmanned helicopter to China Customs, the government agency tasked with managing the customs territory of mainland China.

This is the Swedish manufacturer’s first deal in Asia.

?We are very proud to have established what we believe to be the first in a long line of programs, within not only the Asian market, but also for an end-user such as customs work, which is something that every country in the world has a potential need for,? Niklas Nyroth, director of sales and marketing at CybAero tells Robotics Business Review.

CybAero?s APID 60 is an autonomous, unmanned helicopter (VTOL UAV) with three main components:

  • A helicopter platform that includes avionics and data links
  • Payloads of up to 50 kg (typically sensors)
  • A ground station with video monitors and data links

The robot helicopter is fitted with MALLS (Mobile Automatic Launch and Landing Station), a control system that enables the helicopter to take off and land on moving surfaces, such as a ship’s deck.

?This is our first deal in Asia, but we have been actively marketing in the region for three years now,” explains Nyroth. “We look at the Asian market with its massive maritime areas and related challenges as a very important market for our technology.”

Nyroth wouldn’t comment on either the value of the deal, which UAS Vision reported as being worth $7.6 million, or projected return on investment (ROI), but he says the direct cost of operation of one its unmanned helicopters is generally ?in the region? of 1/5 the cost of a manned asset with similar capabilities.

CybAero APID 60

An APID 60 typically costs $2-3 million, varying greatly upon the selected payload, says Nyroth.

Growing Business in Asia

Nyroth reveals that other Asian countries are already in discussions with China Customs to select CybAero as their preferred VTOL UAS supplier, adding ?we expect others to follow.?

Business in the Asian market is sustainable, says Nyroth, despite a growing number of Asian companies experimenting with their own drone manufacturing.

?The applications for VTOL drones are so diverse, [including] civilian, military, and security applications that there will be business for both local and foreign companies in the foreseeable future ? the best cars in the world are made in Asia, but we still we sell a lot of Europeans cars to Asia.?

China Customs is expected to use the unmanned helicopter APID 60 direct from ships for customs control, port management, and to counter smuggling.

Inside the APID 60 Drone Helicopter

The APID 60s, which have a range of 200 km and a flight time of six hours, will provide extended situational awareness with little or no additional labor, says Nyroth, allowing wider areas to be searched using existing manpower.

?At the very first stages of introducing unmanned technologies to an established user the focus is not always on replacing assets,” explains Nyroth. “It’s more about complementing and enhancing the ‘toolbox.’

In one week, says Nyroth, the APID 60 uses the same amount of fuel that a manned small helicopter consumes on a single afternoon mission. Another ?obvious? benefit is the possibility of a single person being able to operate multiple systems.

Operators use a laptop to plan the helicopter’s route and to monitor the helicopter during the flight, but the helicopter can manage most processes autonomously, including managing stability and the take-off and landing processes.

The APID 60 can carry a wide rage of sensors, including video and thermal imaging cameras, jammers, microwave radio equipment, biochemical sensors, laser scanners, ground radar, and magnetometers.

The global UAV payload market alone is expected to jump from a reported $43.7 billion at the end of 2012 to $68.6 billion by 2022, representing a CAGR of 4.6 percent, according to a report by market analysts Reportstack.