Taiwan's primary defence research and development agency has unveiled a prototype of a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the 2019 Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE), which is being held from 15 to 17 August.
A full-scale mock-up of the proposed design, identified as the MALE UAS (unmanned aircraft system), is under development by the Aeronautical System Research Division (ASRD) of the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) and leverages on the experience gained from the development of the Teng Yun (Cloud Rider) MALE UAV that was first showcased at TADTE 2015.
Two Teng Yun prototypes - which have been marked MU-1611 and MU-1612 - each measuring 8 m long with a wingspan of 18 m are understood to have been built. Official specifications indicate that the air vehicles possess an operating range in excess of 1,000 km, a flight endurance of 24 hours, and ceiling of 25,000 ft (7,620 m). These vehicles have been proven capable of performing autonomous navigation as well as automatic take-off and landing during extensive flight trials since their introduction.
The new MALE UAS design adopts a physical configuration that is comparable to the Teng Yun - which also bears a striking resemblance to the US-made General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-9 Reaper strike-capable reconnaissance UAV - with its low-wing monoplane airframe with a slender fuselage, V-tail and ventral fin, and retractable tricycle undercarriage.
NCSIST has yet to disclose detailed specifications of the new MALE UAS, although an ASRD spokesperson told Jane's on 16 August that the latest design is centred on a new turboprop engine that offers a "significantly larger" output than the Teng Yun's piston engine, resulting in a larger airframe that will offer a greater maximum take-off weight (MTOW) and payload capacity.
Other notable enhancements seen on the mock-up include a new fixed forward-looking optics suite comprising a charge-couple device (CCD) daylight camera and an infrared (IR) imager incorporated into the vehicle's nose section, in addition to the standard chin-mounted electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret.