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The Drone Index: Vestel Karayel KRY-100

May 15, 2015

Turkish Vestel Karayel UAV 01

Turkey isn’t given enough credit as an emerging aerospace giant. For perspective, in the last five years its military-industrial complex (for lack of a better term) has either begun or laid the groundwork for mass-producing avionics, fighter jets, helicopters, missiles, and satellites.

Now add UAVs to the list. In regional terms, Turkey is very competitive. This is being accomplished despite how committed its neighbors Russia and Iran are to their own indigenous drone production. Turkey is in the same league thanks to its robust defense budget and government support for local industry. But whether Turkey’s aerospace firms can match Israel’s world-class drones remains a question mark. Only time can tell how big a success Turkish UAVs become.

Now if the criteria are Muslim countries and their UAV industries, Turkey is indeed making huge strides. Although Pakistan and Iran have their own UAV industries Turkey enjoys the advantage of a thriving and more open economy. Unlike Iran, its manufacturers aren’t burdened with having to clandestinely import the needed parts for their drones.

So what makes the Karayel special?

The largest UAV from avionics manufacturer Vestel is a dedicated propeller-driven ISR drone for military and government use. Its origins date to 2007 and flight testing began in 2009. Its development was interrupted soon after, since Vestel only announced the Karayel’s latest flight testing when it took off with a payload on February 27, 2015. Vestel also claimed that flight testing took place in 2014 without elaborating on its results.

The Karayel is a type of surveillance drone that follows a monoplane design supported by tricycle landing gear. When it was displayed during the IDEF 13 and IDEF 15 arms shows, the Karayel was configured with a conventional tail section. Meanwhile, promotional images of the Karayel depict twin vertical stabilizers instead, or a V-tail.

The Karayel runs on a 70 horsepower engine with a cruising speed above 100 kilometers per hour. Its onboard systems include an electro-optical day camera, an infrared night camera, a laser rangefinder, a laser designator, and a GPS receiver. The Karayel is 21 feet long with a wingspan of 34 ft. It weighs 1,000 pounds and autonomously takes off and lands with a 154 lb payload. The Karayel-SU is an armed variant with an elongated wingspan for carrying up to four munitions. Its airframe can also be equipped with an EO-IR pod.

The Karayel’s airborne mission time is 20 hours with a ceiling between 18,000 and 22,500 ft. The Karayel should not be mistaken as a peer of the Anka, which is a large MALE UAV that is being readied for an attack role like the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. The Turkish armed forces have received six Karayel’s and some have been exported to Saudi Arabia.


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