SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.

— Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Indian Navy Chief

My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

Heron Mk II: A Game-Changer in Unmanned Aerial Systems

Issue: 12-2023Photo(s): By IAI

Reflecting the latest unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology, the Heron MK II has recently joined IAI’s Heron family of UAS, serving air forces, armies, and navies worldwide for over two decades. With a new airframe and wings tuned to maximize performance, advanced avionics, and a ground control system, the Heron MK II introduces new mission capabilities, efficiencies, and autonomy standards.

Equipped with a comprehensive payload suite, this Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAS supports multiple payloads operating over a broad spectrum enable realtime collection of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR), covering large areas of interest. Dedicated sensors allow the system to perform standoff reconnaissance over long distances or persistent surveillance over a wide area. Additionally, the Heron MK II can carry maritime surveillance radar, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electronic surveillance measures (ESM), and communications intelligence (COMINT). The Heron Mk II provides a complete, multimodal intelligence-gathering capability on a single platform by operating up to six sensor payloads simultaneously.

The Heron Mk II also incorporates integral wideband satellite communication and fully digital line-of-sight datalinks, serving multiple payloads simultaneously and allowing the platform unrestricted operational envelope over long distances, sea, land, and mountainous terrain. Switching between the different datalinks can optimize the mission to become covert, secure, and resilient. In addition to streaming live sensor data to the ground, the Heron Mk II also has servers onboard, providing users access to large amounts of raw or processed sensor data collected throughout the mission and stored onboard.

Supporting flexible payload integration with a wide range of Heron family payloads and customer-furnished systems and applications, the HERON MKII conforms to open architecture with separate flight control and mission management systems. This enables the manufacturer and users to maintain optimal upgrading cycles and avionics flexibility throughout the UAS life cycle.


The dimensions of the Heron Mk II have been increased over its predecessor, extending the fuselage to 9.7 meters and the almost 17 meters wingspan, providing a larger space for internal and external payloads, including underwing stores, without degrading performance. The system is certifiable by design for international and military airworthiness standards.

The new powerplant uses an aviation-certified engine that delivers 160 hp, specifically tuned to have a high climb rate and efficient operation at low and high altitudes up to 35,000 ft. The powerful motor also provides sustained power for a maximum airspeed of 145 knots and a faster ascent, improving the drone’s rate of climb by more than 50 percent over legacy systems. The maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) has increased to 1,430 kg, including a useful payload of 490 kg. Heron Mk II has a mission endurance of up to 45 hours.

Another forte is its ability to endure adverse weather, with deicing systems enabling the aircraft to cross stormy weather it may encounter on its flight over mountains and sea. Special attention is given to protecting the communications, navigation, and flight systems from jamming and spoofing, safeguarding the GPS and datalinks against interference and cyberattacks. The platform maintains self-awareness throughout the flight, preventing location deception, unauthorized intervention, or hostile takeover of the autonomous platform.


The crew uses the Unified Control System (UCS) to control the mission, leveraging the highly automated and intuitive user interface to reduce crew workload and focus on the task rather than fly the platform. This modern mission control center comprises multiple displays, ‘hands-on stick and throttle’ (HOTAS) like controls, and a tablet with a touch screen. Autonomous taxi, takeoff and landing and multiple redundancies for flight and mission-critical systems are fully supported based on proven and robust automation, multiple sensors, and systems.

Since its introduction in 1994, the Heron family has been operational with over 22 customers worldwide, accumulating well over 500,000 flight hours. HERON MKII takes the system to new mission capabilities and performance levels, setting a new benchmark for advanced MALE UAS.