Austrian drones fly high, over Ukraine and beyond

CEO Hannes Hecher is pictured at the Schiebel camcopter factory on October 23, 2014 in Wiener Neustadt, some 50 kilometers south of ViennaIn the middle of the Austrian countryside, a few sleek, high-tech drones sit in a bright production hall, ready for missions over Ukraine, the Mediterranean or the Middle East. Schiebel, a small company originally specialised in landmine detection, has been manufacturing Camcopters — a 3.5-metre (11.5-foot) long mini-helicopter equipped with cameras, radars and other sensors — for close to 10 years. “Schiebel is actually the leading unmanned VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) supplier at present,” according to Oliver Shorvon of London-based IHS Jane’s Aerospace and Defence Consulting. Costing a few million euros, with over eight hours’ endurance and weighing a mere 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds), the Camcopter — which Schiebel insists is only for observation and not armed — managed to impose itself over a dozen other drones, even those produced by top defence companies like Sweden’s SAAB and Airbus.

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