NPAS and Light Surveillance Aircraft

The National Police Aviation Service have awarded a contract to deliver a Vulcanair P86R fixed surveillance aircraft to the Austrian company, Airborne Technologies.

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The NPAS had previously trialled a Tecnam MMA aircraft, an aircraft I have looked at a number of times; here, here and here.

Read more about the Vulcanair P86 and Churchil Augmented Reality System below;

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And of course, a handful of videos

The standard airframe costs less than £750k and although the final cost with all the extras will be much higher, the running costs are said to be exceptionally low.

Army Air Corps fixed wing aviation has traditionally centred on the Britten Norman Defender but at a cost of probably less than the door latches on a Wildcat, does an aircraft like the P86 have a role in the MoD, perhaps even as an RPAS surrogate in non segregated airspace?


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Brian Black
Brian Black
November 15, 2013 11:46 am

There is clearly a role within the MoD, as you yourself pont to the Defender. Defender has only been around since the ’90s though, so probably no need for a replacement for a while.

The BN Defender is not really a ‘traditional’ AAC aircraft. 651 sqn only got them in the ’90s, having previously been a Lynx & Gazelle squadron, and then briefly the unit initially standing up Apache. Islander was used by 1 flight AAC in Northern Ireland only since the ’80s; 1 flight has since been swallowed up by 651 sqn. The aircraft before Islander was the Beaver… before that, god knows.

November 15, 2013 12:26 pm

For one moment I thought it might be a UK product! Silly me!

I see it’s “Vulcanair aircraft are made-to-order certified arplanes handcrafted in Naples, Italy…”

– so you know who gets a cut of anything made down there.

– and this – “the optimum solution in the EU-wide procurement process”

So I wonder what the eventual cost will be? I somehow think that all those police Beemers and Merc ambulances weren’t bought on a value for money basis.

Cynical – moi?

Anyway – anything that is quieter than those bloody Islanders and Plod’s hovering threshing machines is welcome.


“Over-Surveilled of Ealing”

PS what happened to those Diamond(?) aircraft that I’ve seen at airshows and did a turn in Afghan (I think).

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 15, 2013 12:31 pm

Auster came before Beaver. That just came to me. And before that, I think just gliders. But Defender, not traditional.

November 15, 2013 12:55 pm

I was thinking this was looking like a decent aircraft and that if it was cheap the king airs maybe in for run for there money then I got to the end of the brochure and saw were it was manufactured Naples Italy. Having had the mis fortune of being on an aircraft program working with an aerospace company in that area ( though not this one) I would rather buy a boat!

I think there’s a need for this type of aircraft but as we have king airs in the training and operation fleets I think it maybe a better aircraft to standardise on.

November 15, 2013 2:01 pm

“I somehow think that all those police Beemers and Merc ambulances weren’t bought on a value for money basis.”

The previous statement couldn’t be more wrong.
I cant comment too much on Ambulance fleet other than to say that as the UK motor industry particularly light commercials is all but non existent the choice of vehicle is somewhat limited. But with most german engineering you get what you pay for.

As for BMW Police cars now your talking.
In my opinion the BMW is wisest way to spend Tax payers money.
The choice of a circa 200bhp Diesel engined vehicle is limited.
German or Volvo. UK bands are few and far between Jaguar just don’t appear to be interested and are only used in small numbers.
My experience of the BMW 325 and 530 is that they are rarely out of service for vehicle related issues mostly the role equipment not the manufacturers fault.
A few years back one large Force decided after a few years of running BMW they would give Vauxhall a try. Disaster. Massive maintenance issues with vehicles off the road for protracted periods.
Not so with the BMW they went back to.
BMW also pretty much offer a Factory Police car, all additional wiring for the lighting, radio and IT systems fitted on the production line. The Final FIT FOR SERVICE costs significantly reduced.

So IMO the BMW is bought on a best value for money basis.
Problem is the Police don’t tell the public how much they save in doing so.

dave haine
dave haine
November 15, 2013 3:22 pm

Hmm, horses for courses I suppose… Here in somerset/dorset border, don’t see any BMW’s at all- local police support vehicles are Focus and Focus estates, with LR Freelanders making up the rest, traffic cars are generally LR Discovery as well a few Skoda’s- talking to the local coppers on a regular basis BMW’s aren’t well liked, not having enough room for the kit and being difficult to control on muddy rural roads, Volvo’s are better but still suffer with lack of room for kit and handling, hence I suppose the Freelanders. This also chimes with what my cousin says (armed response officer in Kent) he rates the Jaguar estate- he says much better handling vehicle when fully fitted out.

Vauxhall got a derisive laugh….

Local ambulance service uses mainly Discoverys for First Response, because they can fit all the kit that a regular ambulance has, with a few Skoda’s and a solitary Toyota Amazon as a punishment threat.

as an aside BMW bikes are not considered highly by most forces now- with Honda’s being the preferred bike

dave haine
dave haine
November 15, 2013 3:37 pm

@ ChrisW

The Diamond Twinstars were operated by the RAF for a couple of years for some surveillance task/project. Finished in 2009, don’t know where the airframes went though- never saw a disposal notice or sale.

Not that it matters as Diamond Aircraft effectively ‘fell over’ in 2012. And ceased production in Canada in 2013.

November 15, 2013 4:17 pm

Re BMWs, I’ve quite a few family and friends in the police, general consensus was they were good when they worked. Sent back to the dealer too often, unlike the Volvos however weren’t as good when on the road compared to the BMWs.

November 15, 2013 4:31 pm

The problem with the DA-42 is it can only really carry the sensor payload of a Watchkeeper.

Much more interesting is what the US Army has been doing with Dash 7 and 8 platforms.

November 15, 2013 6:00 pm

@ Dave Haine
The Diamond aircraft were used for exercises in the UK, as UAS are/were forbidden in UK skies. When certain limits ended and also other in-house options (such a Gazelle with EO) came up, their use ended.

Don’t forget Northolt station flight, though they usually do SIGINT work…much like the US Army’s dash 7/8’s.

The Shadow R1 has been brought into the core budget btw.

dave haine
dave haine
November 15, 2013 6:46 pm

@ Bob

Yes, I figured that it wouldn’t have a massive payload when I saw the DA-42. I wonder what they were doing with it?

Always liked the dash 7- looked right, not sure about the dash 8, but the market tells all, and the thing sells.

Makes you wonder what they could do with the 146/RJ as a sensor platform, plenty of cargo fit Quadra-puffs out there….

Chuck Hill
November 15, 2013 9:53 pm

Surprised they expect to operate with only one crewman. Would have thought a pilot and observer.

Two standard American made general aviation engines running on Avgas. Ability to fly relatively slow.

KingAirs would cost a lot more to operate although I think they would be great for coastal surveillance.

November 16, 2013 1:14 am

This strange one showed great potential but needed more development

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
November 16, 2013 12:56 pm

Why is everyone so excited about the aircraft? It’s just a little put-put plane. To me it doesn’t seem so special, in the same way that my 3rd car isn’t special, it’s just a gash old Citroen for local run around duties, bought purely on price and with no concern for make, model , colour or anything else. I can’t even remember it’s number plate!

It’s the real time Augmented Reality System software integration with GPS and sensors that’s quite exciting, to me at least. That’s challenging, but they’ve cracked it, and now there’s vast amounts of data moving around which has implications for society as a whole.

But who the hell thought ARS was a good acronym for a product?