STA, 31 May 2020 - Ultralight aircraft made by the Ajdovščina-based Pipistrel have joined the US Special Operations Command's (SOCOM) fleet as low-cost, high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, in what is seen as a major step for the Slovenian company.
The news was revealed by SOCOM last week after seven years of classified collaboration and confirmed by Pipistrel, which said its specially prepared airframes are being used with "sensors to collect full-motion video and signals intelligence".
The company said its surveillance platform can be fitted with a multitude of sensors, with endurance ranging from 8 to more than 30 hours at low, medium and high altitudes, all at a fraction of the cost of conventional solutions.
"It is interesting that the American army and the military aviation industry are the largest exporters of aircraft in the world, but then they come to the small Slovenia and even smaller Ajdovščina for such special aircraft because they cannot make such good ones at such a price themselves," Pipistrel founded and CEO Ivo Boscarol told the STA.
Boscarol acknowledges that the deliveries are part of large, multi-million deals, but said the amounts were subject to trade secrecy.
He expects that interest in this segment of the company's production will grow now that the deliveries have been confirmed.
"In recent days we've received concrete inquiries from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia for similar aircraft. Working for the US military means working to the highest standards and if they accept you, the product is good and recognized anywhere in the world, be it a friend or foe of the US."
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