A deal to operate and support two of Boeing's leading reconnaissance unmanned drone aircraft was signed yesterday by the Tawazun subsidiary, Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments (Adasi).
The deal will team the two companies in a project that will enable Adasi to provide training, support and marketing services for Boeing's ScanEagle and Integrator unmanned aircraft systems in the UAE, with prospects to expand into the Middle East and North Africa region.
"This is an important continuation of our strategy to build innovative aerospace capabilities in the Middle East," Homaid Al Shemmari, the chairman of Adasi said at the signing ceremony at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) in Abu Dhabi.
"Our home-grown expertise coupled with Boeing's technical capabilities in unmanned aircraft systems is a winning combination and is poised to have a significant contribution to the ongoing drive to develop UAE national capabilities within Adasi."
The teaming agreement expands on a previous agreement between Adasi and Insitu, a wholly owned Boeing subsidiary that makes the ScanEagle and Integrator.
Under the deal, Adasi teams will be able to operate and maintain the unmanned aircraft for the UAE military, and for neighbouring allies.
It will also offer training for potential clients from maintenance technicians to the operators who actually "fly" the missions, said Debbie Rub, the vice president of Boeing Military Aircraft.
Adasi will also market the technology from supplying flight hours on ScanEagle and Integrator, operated by an Adasi team, to the sale of actual aircraft and ground equipment, she added.
"This teaming agreement advances Boeing's strategy of partnering with best-in-industry companies such as Adasi," said Ms Rub.
"We plan to continue investing and growing in the UAE and the broader Middle East region in order to support US allies' enduring need for affordable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] solutions, such as ScanEagle and Integrator."
The 61kg, twin-boomed Integrator has been designed as a follow-on to the ScanEagle, a 20kg unmanned aircraft operated by United States marines and the US navy since 2004.
The new aircraft is designed to carry significantly more payload, and to more easily swap its major sensors. It carries electro-optic and infrared sensors, and a laser rangefinder, and can stay in the air for 24 hours.
It is capable of flying at 4,573 metres and has a maximum speed of 80 knots.
The lighter ScanEagle also has 24-hour endurance, and can climb to 5,944 metres.
"When we first launched ScanEagle, we weren't just launching an aircraft, we were launching a new category of ISR," said an Insitu spokesman.
"The concept behind the platform, to create a system that launches from anywhere, stays on station longer and delivers the highest quality data possible to tactical decision-makers. Since 2004 ScanEagle has provided 24/7/365 operations with worldwide customers.
"We deliver the highest-value ISR capabilities available for both land and maritime missions."
Both the Integrator and ScanEagle share the same catapult launcher and hooking recovery systems.
Adasi is the first UAE-based company to offer clients a comprehensive range of services to cover all types of autonomous systems.
Adasi offers solutions, starting with joint analysis of end-users' needs, through formalisation of their requirements, to equipment selection and procurement.
Adasi also offers product or system design, development, testing and commissioning of localised subsystems and systems, and other engineering solutions, as well as training of customer teams, operational support and systems maintenance.
Boeing's direct involvement with Adasi will also open many opportunities for UAE nationals to develop their knowledge and skills, and gain experience in the management and implementation of ISR programmes.