Thailand pursues new tactical-class UAV, based on a Chinese design

Beihang UAS DTI

Thailand’s Defence Technology Institute (DTI) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Royal Thai Army to develop a medium-range tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the service’s Army Aviation Centre.

The new UAV – called D-Eyes 04 – is expected to replace the army’s Searcher Mk II UAVs made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which have been in operation since the early 2000s.

According to its 29 June announcement, DTI will partner with the army to develop and test UAV prototypes, with production outsourced to private manufacturers when completed.

The proposed D-Eyes 04 design will be based on Chinese firm Beihang UAS’ CY-9 platform, which features a 7-metre-long twin-boom airframe with the engine positioned in the rear in a pusher-propulsion configuration, slightly swept-back wings that are about 14 metres in span, and a chin-mounted electro-optical sensor turret. Endurance is claimed to be up to 20 hours, although this will depend on whether the air vehicle is carrying its full payload capacity of 150 kg.

AMR was the first to report that Beihang entered into an agreement with DTI in November 2018 aimed at co-operation in areas such UAV research and development, production, and flight training. Representing DTI at the signing ceremony were top officials including General Maneerin, Chairman of DTI Board of Directors, Preecha Pradabmook, General Manager of DTI, Fu Junhui, General Manager of Beihang UAS, and Xiao Jiangyang, Deputy General Manager of Beihang UAS.

The D-Eyes 04 UAV is expected to be used by army artillery regiments as airborne battlefield surveillance and targeting assets, a role presently filled by the Searcher Mk II platforms.

DTI previously delivered the D-Eyes 02 mini-UAV to the Royal Thai Marine Corps for trials in December 2020. The institute also signed a separate MoU with the army for counter-UAV research and development in the same month. A prototype system was trialled in May 2021.

by Jr Ng