The Italian Army has been evaluating an unlimited aerial surveillance system for real-time convoy protection. The system named COBRA, developed by ERMES Technologies and delivered by Eurolink Systems, was finally accepted on April 2014 and is actually under evaluation by the Engineers Command.
Convoys are of crucial importance for logistics and operations. That’s why militaries invest time and money to counteract threats they could encounter during the trip. Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), attacks from insurgents and so on can slow down or even stop the convoy, let it be exposed to great engraves. Recently some infantry vehicles have been updated with electronic gimbals that allows people to stay clear while having a survey of the area around. Those powerful cameras are still subject to some limitations: if located on vehicle’s top they suffer of a limited range and if mounted on a telescopic mast they cannot be extended while moving, requiring the vehicle to just stop.
The COBRA system consists of a micro UAV connected to the external landing box through an 8 feet cable, allowing an unlimited time mission even while the vehicle is moving at 22-25 mph. The UAV carries a small HD or IR camera letting the operator to stay clear while surveying a wide area in real time. The mission is completely automatic from take-off to landing and the control software runs on every windows based PC, thus reducing costs of logistics and training. The proprietary “vehicle-following” technology allows operations in GPS-denied environments. The wired communication let the system to be employed close to an active jammer, as it is in a standard military convoy.
“Thanks to its micro dimensions, the Cobra does not require auxiliary power source and simply plugs to vehicle’s battery or on-board inverter”, says Andrea Ricciotti, COO at ERMES Technologies. “We have just trained a class of 4 people in just 1 day” he says, “this reflects the ease of the system, that is born to be helpful, not to give soldiers more problems than they already have”.
Italian Army required the COBRA to be adapted to the huge 6×6 infantry vehicle Mrap Cougar: “the big Browning machine-gun was a problem”, says Tiziano Fiorenzani, in charge of R&D at ERMES, “we had to move the landing platform out of the vehicle in order to permit the long weapon to be freely oriented”.
At the end of the test campaign more orders are expected to come from Italian Army.