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12 Jan, 2014 16:12

El Drone: Correa presents ‘surprise’ Ecuadorian UAV

El Drone: Correa presents ‘surprise’ Ecuadorian UAV

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has unveiled the country’s first domestically made unmanned aerial vehicle. The drone is to help Quito fight drug traffic and will also be on sale in South America, costing “7 times less” than its Israeli equivalent.

“We have pleasant surprises… Whether you believe it or not, we are already producing unmanned aircraft,” Correa told the Ecuadorians, speaking on local television on Saturday.

The prototype drone, called the UAV-2 Gavilán (“Hawk”), has been designed by the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) to monitor borders and hard-to-reach areas, like the Amazon rainforest, as well as for assisting investigations.

It took the FAE five years of research to create the surveillance drone, but the result proved to be quite a bargain. According to Correa, Gavilán’s cost is about $500,000, while in 2007 Quito had to buy six Israeli UAVs of the same type for $20 million.

The Ecuadorian drone is made of carbon fiber and wood, and operates on a gasoline engine for up to seven hours, the official news agency ANDES reported. It is capable of transmitting video and photos in real time and can land or take off automatically.

The UAV has already been tested in real missions, detecting a ship with “tons of drugs” in the Pacific last year, which it had followed six hours before the vessel was detained, Correa said.

The president said he “pressed” the Ecuadorian Air Force with the task of making a marketable model of the drone, with the aim of exporting it “at least to Latin America.”

At least four more Gaviláns will be produced by Ecuador for domestic use this year, after which the FAE will switch to producing the drones for export.