The Israeli air force has resumed operations with its Israel Aerospace Industries Heron TP ("Eitan") unmanned air systems, after lifting a grounding order imposed following a 29 January mishap. An aircraft crashed minutes after taking off from an air base in central Israel during the ill-fated test flight.
A combined investigation conducted by the air force and IAI concluded that the crash was caused by a structural failure in the medium-altitude, long-endurance design's wing, probably due to a manufacturing process. This counters an initial suggestion that the UAS had come down after exceeding the limitations of its flight envelope.
Powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6 turboprop engine, the Heron TP is the Israeli air force's largest unmanned aircraft. It has a fuselage length of 13m (43ft), a 26m wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of more than 4t, and is designed for autonomous take-off and landing.
The aircraft's composite fuselage is designed to accommodate large volume payloads, with the type having a service ceiling above 45,000ft (13,700m) and an estimated maximum endurance of more than 70h.