Delivery of the First Mini-Drone Reconnaissance Systems (SMDR) to the French Army
(Source: French Armed Forces Ministry; issued June 15, 2020)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
The SMDR reconnaissance drones made by Thales have begun to replace the DRAC drones which have been in service with the French Army since 2008; 35 complete systems will be in service by the end of 2021. (DGA photo)
PARIS --- Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomed the delivery of the first three Systèmes de mini-drones de reconnaissance (mini-drone reconnaissance systems, SMDR) by the Directorate General of Armament (DGA):

"Our strategy provides for the strengthening of key functions such as intelligence, which these drones will provide. Agile, efficient and easy to use, their arrival in our armed forces is excellent news and an additional translation of our efforts to strengthen our forces within the framework of the Military Programming Law. They are made in France by Thales."

Delivered to the French Army, these first SMDRs will significantly strengthen its detection, recognition and identification capabilities as close as possible to the contact zone.

In accordance with the Military Planning Law (LPM) 2019-2025, ten more mini-drone reconnaissance systems are to be delivered by the end of 2020.

Following verification operations carried out at Thales facility in Elancourt and by the DGA Techniques terrestres, the DGA has just authorized the delivery by Thales to the French Army of the first three mini-drone reconnaissance systems (SMDR). Intended to carry out detection, recognition and identification missions, they will replace the Drone de Renseignement Au Contact (DRAC, or front-line intelligence drone) which has been in service since 2008.

Delivered to the French Army’s Technical Section (STAT) for operational testing, they will be available for operational deployment by the end of 2020. They will be operated by the mini-drone sections of the acquisition and surveillance batteries of artillery regiments and notably by the 61st Artillery Regiment (61st RA).

With double the performance of its predecessor, this new mini-drone system will allow the French Army to reinforce its intelligence capacity as close as possible to the contact zone. SMDR consists of three identical Spy Ranger drones and a ground station. Equipped with a high definition optronics ball, capable of operating by day and night, it will offer increased detection, recognition and identification performance. With a wingspan of almost 4 meters and a weight of 15 kg, the drone has an autonomy of around 2.5 hours.

The system can be deployed in 12 minutes by a team of two soldiers (installation of the launch pad, assembly of the drone, initialization of the ground station and carrying out tests before takeoff). Thanks to its data link, developed through the ELSA* upstream study, the drone can transmit high-definition streaming video in real time, reliably and securely, up to 30 km from the ground station.

The 2019-2025 LPM provides for the delivery of 10 other reconnaissance mini-drone systems before the end of 2020. The army will have a fleet of 35 systems by 2021. These systems will receive support in terms of training, logistics and maintenance for 10 years.


* ELSA: Etude et démonstration d’une liaison de données universelle des systèmes autonomes aéroterrestres, or Study and demonstration of a universal data link for autonomous air and ground systems.

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