A new unmanned helicopter that can perform a variety of tasks in challenging environments has been developed by a South African company. The Alto UAV, designed and manufactured by Aquila Viour, was recently demonstrated at a DCD Protected Mobility demo day.
The Alto UAV is a versatile platform that can carry different payloads depending on the mission requirements. It can be fitted with cameras, sensors, radars, transponders, and other equipment to perform tasks such as reconnaissance, surveillance, patrolling, search and rescue, demining, and delivery. The UAV can also land on boats and ships, making it suitable for maritime operations. It can be fitted with Global Command and Control Technologies’ Chaka command and control system and Rajant Corporation communications system as well as a camera, but it is payload agnostic and can accommodate a variety of payloads – the current version can carry 3 kg (the aircraft weighs 8 kg empty), but future versions will be able to carry 5 and 15 kg payloads ranging from electro-optical gimbals to synthetic aperture radar.
The Alto UAV is powered by a petrol engine that gives it a longer endurance and range than electric UAVs. It has a carbon fibre airframe that can withstand harsh African conditions. It also has a low noise level that makes it hard to detect from the ground. It can fly autonomously or under human control, using advanced artificial intelligence and image-processing techniques to locate and identify targets.
The Alto UAV is aimed at filling the gap between low- and high-end UAVs in the market. It has potential applications in the mining, police, private security, and defence sectors. The Alto has applications across industries such as mining, law enforcement, private security, and defence. It can be used for tasks like game reserve patrolling, nighttime operations, delivering supplies, and demining. According to DefenceThe SA Navy has expressed interest in using the UAV for night-time detection of divers and boats. Another customer plans to use it for game reserve patrolling.
The Alto UAV is the result of five years of development by Aquila Viour, a company established last year at the CSIR in Pretoria. The UAV was recognised by the Department of Trade and Industry as an innovation participant in 2022. Aquila Viour hopes to expand its customer base and showcase its UAV to the world.