Israel's Elbit Systems announced on May 7 that it has developed a maritime rescue capability for its Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol Unmanned Aircraft System.
The aircraft can perform long-range search and rescue (SAR) missions using detection and identification systems, automatically-inflating life rafts, and precision air drop capability, the company said.
Unlike manned aircraft, whose SAR capabilities are significantly degraded by adverse weather conditions and limited endurance, the Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol can operate in adverse weather conditions at any time of the day, and is capable of more than 24 hours of continuous flight. The new capability not only enables SAR missions to be carried out more frequently and in a safer manner, but also improves the effectiveness of maritime SAR response, according to Elbit.
The Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol can carry up to four six-person life rafts on its wings. It uses an onboard maritime radar to detect people who need to be rescued. Upon detection, the drone's electro-optic/infra-red payload is deployed to provide visual identification, and a rapid calculation of the drop point is performed, enabling the aircraft to release life rafts from a low altitude of 600ft to a pin-pointed location at a safe distance from the survivors. The inflation process starts when a raft is dropped, and finishes by the time the raft hits the water, said the company.
One of the drones with maritime rescue capability was recently delivered to an undisclosed Southeast Asian customer.
The Hermes 900 Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV has been deployed with the Israeli Air Force since 2015 and has been purchased by numerous customers including Switzerland, the UK, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, the EU and the UN.