Israel remains the go-to address in the international military drone market for cutting-edge UAV technology.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Israel Aircraft Industries is known as a world leader in drone technology and was recently tapped by the German Air Force to develop a special Heron drone for the Luftwaffe.

The German model of the Heron TP UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) completed its first flight in Israel’s skies to test modifications designed for the German Ministry of Defense. The EU company Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, a subsidiary of the well-known passenger plane maker, is collaborating with IAI on the project.

The Germans will lease a number of UAVs with maintenance services, with Luftwaffe personnel currently training in Israel with Israeli counterparts at an IAF base in central Israel.

The German Heron is based on the Israeli Eitan UAV, which is in operational use in the Israeli Air Force. The drone can stay airborne for more than two consecutive days at 35,000 feet (6.5 miles) of altitude, but its normal operational endurance is estimated at around 36 hours of continuous fight.

“This is a significant and historic phase in the strategic cooperation between Israel and Germany,” said the head of the UAV office in the Israel Ministry of Defense, who can only be identified as Colonel “C.”

“Despite the various challenges we faced, including those brought by the Corona pandemic, we are on schedule. This is thanks to the collaboration and great work done by elements of Germany and Israel’s defense establishments,” he said.

As an advanced high-tech platform, the Heron has been sold to militaries around the world including Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Greece, India, Morocco, Singapore, South Korea and Turkey.

The international military drone market is very competitive, but from 1985 to 2014 Israel accounted for the majority (61 percent) of global UAV exports and is still the go-to address for top UAV technology.