Spy’Ranger : catch me if you can!

Unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance systems provide a tactical advantage that hasn’t been seen since the deployment of radars in the Second World War. But the more these Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) are used on the battlefield, the harder adversaries will try to attack them.

As a result, robust UAS design has become a major priority for the armed forces.
The Spy’Ranger UAS from Thales is a robust solution in several respects. First, its new-generation fixed-wing airframe is built to withstand the rigours of repeated take-offs and landings in difficult terrain — something it does much better than the Israeli, American and French mini-UAVs in service with armed forces today. From the start of the development phase, the air vehicle was optimised for quick deployment, ease of use and lower support costs.

Typically, two or three air vehicles need to be deployed at the same time for optimum effect. Once they are in the air, thanks to Thales’s system integration expertise and the technological excellence of the French SMEs involved in this adventure, they deliver robust performance on a number of different fronts:

– outstanding image and video quality (the only payload of its size with an infrared sensor capable of near-HD quality images)

– high-speed encrypted datalink with a range of up to 30 km (the only high-speed datalink to deliver this range of performance without requiring directive antennas)

– C2 software combat-proven with French special forces and land forces

Pushing the envelope

The gyrostabilised optronic sensor is a breakthrough in itself. Spy’Ranger is way ahead of its competitors in this respect, and will ultimately incorporate the same algorithms used on the Rafale pod and the DAMOCLES pod for automatic target detection, tracking and IFF identification.

With a combination of high-definition sensors operating at visible and infrared frequencies, the system offers a full day/night reconnaissance and surveillance capability for every type of mission. Thales’s sophisticated vision processing algorithms play a key role in enhancing image quality to ensure mission success.
High-performance datalink

Thales is also known for its high-performance tactical datalink technology. Designed to the latest standards, the Spy’Ranger datalink sends back georeferenced images securely and in real time to the operator on the ground.

The latest-generation command-and-control software, developed by Thales based on years of cooperation with the French armed forces, makes the system easy to operate without specialist skills or lengthy training. Thales is a global leader in C4ISR solutions, and Spy’Ranger benefits from the lessons learned on major programmes including the Watchkeeper tactical UAS, which has clocked more than 10,000 flight hours with NATO forces in Afghanistan.

French tech

For the Spy’Ranger project, Thales deliberately chose to work with a range of innovative French SMEs, all of which have a reputation for excellence in their different fields.

The Spy’Ranger mini-UAS brings together France’s most innovative imaging technologies. The optronic payload was developed to Thales specifications by Merio and incorporates Thales’s extensively proven uncooled infrared technology. The custom airframe was developed by Aviation Design, also to Thales specifications, and the system benefits from the company’s expertise in system integration and UAS programmes, its global leadership in tactical communications and optronic payloads, as well as world-class capabilities in command & control software.

Spy’Ranger is the system of choice for modern armed forces seeking to acquire a completely new, innovative and future-oriented system to improve the imaging capabilities of their combat units and enhance image intelligence on the front line.

Quick to deploy, easy to operate, simple to maintain and compatible with other types of payloads (e.g. LIDAR), the Spy’Ranger mini-UAS is also an effective solution for security services and critical infrastructure providers seeking to expand their security, maintenance and surveillance capabilities.

“Spy’Ranger sees enemy forces wherever they are and no matter what they do to try to neutralise it.”

Jean-Pascal Arrou-Vignod, Vice President, Optronics Solutions, Thales


Small, quiet and effective

Engineered by Aviation Design, an innovative French company with specialist expertise in high-tech model aircraft and growing demand from defence customers, the Spy’Ranger air vehicle is made of carbon fibre and is small enough to carry in a backpack.

It is launched from a lightweight ramp for more reliable take-offs in all wind conditions, and fitted with a replaceable foam skid to cushion the landing. The refined aerodynamics of this electrically powered mini-UAV boost operational endurance to as much as 2.5 hours with a range of 30 km — and it can glide in complete silence during critical mission phases to minimise the chances of being spotted by the enemy.