Angus Batey sent the following report from the Dubai air show:
An innovative UAE airframer is aiming to become the world leader in unmanned systems. Adcom Systems has sold its United 40 MALE UAS to three customers and the first production models will be delivered within four months. Its giant Global Yabhon is also under order, with delivery promised for 2014.
"The flying banana"; "Heath-Robinson"; "Dr Evil's UAV". The enormous model of Adcom Systems' in-development Global Yabhon unmanned aircraft has certainly got people at the Dubai Airshow talking.
The mammoth proposed platform boasts not one, but two sets of wings, spanning 26 m each, and an unprecedented 18 hardpoints. The configuration concept is bristling with weapons, including torpedoes and cruise missiles.
Despite the cartoonish excess of the model, Adcom's chief designer, Ali Al Dhaheri, is entirely serious. He promises the Global Yabhon will be flying within four months, and will be delivered within six to an unidentified customer.
"We have our theme, we have our image, we have our strategy," he says. "And we have the vision. We want to be number one in the world, and I think the way we're going is eye-catching."
Adcom established itself in business supplying target drones for use against missile systems, but began to make its name outside the Middle East when it showed its United 40 unmanned system at the Paris Air Show in 2009. That smaller aircraft was the first to follow the distinctive double-wing, curved-fuselage configuration the Global Yabhon has adopted.
The company has published video footage of United 40 in flight, landing on both a paved runway and on sand, and releasing a missile.
The company is now in full production, says Al Dhaheri, with three confirmed customers.
Adcom will not reveal who has placed orders, but in July, the RIA Novosty news agency reported that a Russian customer had ordered "at least two" of the aircraft.
One of the United 40s on Adcom's air show stand carries the word "Navy" and is equipped with a torpedo. This makes it the first anti-submarine UAS in production.
The unique two-wing design brings advantages and challenges.
"It does more than increase the lift," says Al Dhaheri. "This aeroplane does not need more than 120 meters to take off, and you can land it in a 40 knot crosswind and in the desert - a two-ton aircraft. Tandem wings have been considered for many years, but there are interferences between the two wings. We got rid of that, by something that we cannot reveal to the public. It cancels the vortex, somehow - but those are company secrets. We know how toignite vortex, we know how to kill vortex. We know how to do a lot of things."
The design had an unusual source.
"It was invented by me," Al Dhaheri says. "You want the truth? It was pure invention by dream. I remember in university I was listening to these Phd people, and I fell asleep. And I don't know how, but it came to me exactly as you see it. It was a dream, and it became true."
Not only does the company manufacture the aircraft and the ground control station (GCS) - which can control two aircraft simultaneously from one seat ("We control eight target drones from one GCS, so this is simple," Al Dhaheri says) - the missiles are all their own work too. This extreme self-reliance is a function of location.
"This country is almost removed," he explains. "We are far away from the real industrial areas, and we have to do everything ourselves because nobody will sell us their products. But that made us very strong."
Adcom announced during the show that it has offered several United 40 systems to the United Nations, to be donated for free for use in humanitarian missions.
"We want to civilize UAVs," Al Dhaheri says. "It is our mission and our understanding that private organizations should support the United Nations. If we can use the United 40 for communications, to put a system on it so that in case of a natural disaster somebody can call, then that's noble and beautiful. Nevertheless, we are in the military side because we have to have money - and money is military, as everybody knows."
The challenge now is to keep up with the level of interest the product line is generating. AlDhaheri promises that the first delivery of a finished United 40 system to a launch customer will take place in four months, but interest during the Airshow is causing some headaches.
"We have to deliver a lot of aircraft in a year and a half - a lot," he says. "We have to expand our production to a minimum of one a week, if we can. That is only for the existing customers: now we're getting new customers we don't know what to do! It's big."