Elbit's Hermes Starliner UAS certified to fly in civilian airspace

International aviation regulation prohibits uncertified aircraft from flying in civilian airspace, but with the certification, the Starliner will no longer be restricted.

 Elbit's Hermes Starliner UAS (photo credit: ELBIT SYSTEMS)
Elbit's Hermes Starliner UAS
(photo credit: ELBIT SYSTEMS)

Israel’s Transportation Ministry has approved the first certification for unmanned aerial systems to operate in civilian airspace.

The certification was issued by Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) for the Hermes Starliner unmanned aerial system (UAS), developed and manufactured by Elbit Systems. Its receipt completes UAS compliance with NATO standardization for approval to fly in civilian airspace.

An international aviation regulation prohibits uncertified aircraft from flying in civilian airspace for safety reasons, but with the certification, the Hermes Starliner will no longer be restricted to non-segregated airspace.

“I am proud that Israel has become the first country which allows UAVs to operate for the benefit of agriculture, environment, the fight against crime, for the people and the economy,” said Israeli Transportation and Road Safety Minister and Labor leader MK Merav Michaeli.

The approval to fly in any civilian airspace, including in populated areas, allows governments and organizations to use the UAS in various missions such as border security, anti-terror operations, securing mass public events, maritime search and rescue, agricultural work, environmental inspection missions and more.

Hermes 900 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (credit: ELBIT)Hermes 900 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (credit: ELBIT)

The Hermes Starliner has a wingspan of 17 meters, weighs 1.6 tons and can carry an additional 450 kg. (992 lbs.) of electro-optical, thermal, radar and other payloads. It is capable of up to 36 hours of continuous flight at an altitude of up to 25,000 ft.

While the UAS was used extensively during the 2015 World Cup in Brazil, the rest of the airspace where it was operating had to be cleared of traffic.

In order to meet certification standards, Elbit Systems said it had to install a host of civil aviation technological capabilities on the Hermes Starliner, that it didn’t have to install before on the Hermes 900.

Those technologies included a terrain avoidance warning system; automatic take-off and landing in harsh visibility; redundant avionics, sensors and satellite data links; adverse weather capabilities; and direct lightning strike sustainment.

The design and manufacturing of the UAS was supervised by ICAA, which also led a “rigorous” six-year certification process that included extensive ground and test flights that were carried out in compliance with air navigation rules, airworthiness basis and aviation standards regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“We are proud to issue the Type Certificate to the Hermes Starliner UAS, approving it to fly in civilian airspace as any other civil aircraft. As far as ICAA is aware, this is a world first,” said authority head Joel Feldschuh.

“CAAI is an active partner in the ICAO effort to update international regulations to accommodate remotely piloted aircraft systems in civil airspace, and this type certificate granted to the Hermes Starliner UAS aligns with this international activity,” he said. “This type certificate is the result of a fundamental process that we led for six years that included thousands of man-hours, dozens of audits, laboratory tests, ground tests, intensive flight tests and thousands of documents.”

Elbit Systems Aerospace general manager Yoram Shmuely siad, “We are very pleased to have achieved this international breakthrough, solidifying our leadership in the UAS market. The capability to integrate UASs in civilian airspace now enables governments as well as international and commercial organizations to leverage the unique capabilities of a sophisticated UAS in their pursuit of significantly improved security and environmental protection.”

Israel is considered a leading exporter of drones, with defense companies selling UASs to countries including Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Switzerland and others.

Canada and Switzerland already use Elbit’s Hermes Starliner for various missions including intelligence and reconnaissance, supporting maritime environmental protection missions in the Arctic and forest-fire monitoring missions. Dozens of other countries fly variants of the Hermes 900.