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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: An Australian Perspective

Most readers would be aware that UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are used extensively for surveillance and for bombing missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But did you know that UAVs are being made in Australia? Not only that but they are being sold around the world for a range of applications. The manufacturer is Silvertone, a company with decades of experience and run by Bob Young.

By Bob Young

Silvertone’s latest UAV is the 4-metre wingspan Flamingo, shown above in a hangar at Bankstown airport with a slightly larger cousin. The Flamingo is a lightweight, modular unit designed to operate in the under-20kg class of UAVs, thereby avoiding the complications and costs of larger UAVs which are subject to more stringent Civil Aviation regulations.

The modular construction makes the Flamingo extremely versatile, allowing a variety of mission configurations as well as making it easy to transport. Broken down into its separate components, the Flamingo will easily fit into a family sedan.

While it is a relatively small UAV, it can carry payloads double the weight of its air-frame. It uses a small motor, rated up to 3.5HP driving a 16-inch (diam) x 8-inch (pitch) wooden propeller, giving it a maximum speed of 78 knots (144km/h) and maximum ceiling of 15000 feet (4500m).

Click for larger image
Silvertone Flamingo F-08 UAV kitted out for real work. Note the antenna arrays

The Flamingo is a pusher prop aircraft, as are many larger UAVs. Pusher aircraft have several advantages over tractor aircraft, particularly when used in surveillance aircraft. They give an unrestricted view forward for the camera as well as being more aerodynamically efficient. The efficient aerodynamic design gives vice-free flight characteristics combined with an excellent speed envelope, making the Flamingo an ideal UAV trainer.

The aircraft’s endurance is rated up to seven hours, depending on payload, throttle settings and altitude. And while 15000 feet is the ceiling, in practice this is set by the quality and range of the optics used in any surveillance video cameras. The most efficient altitude for flight is around 11000 feet which gives 25% of the fuel consumption achievable at sea level.

As well as its modular design, the Flamingo has a large payload area (in front of the propeller) which has a bolt-on pannier which may be replaced to allow the aircraft to be re-configured quickly for different missions. The pannier can be constructed to suit the customers’ requirements, with the payload mounted above, below or with the Pannier plate mounted vertically, on each side. Overall, the pannier has been optimised for surveillance equipment.

Maximum payload is 10kg while the all-up weight (AUW), which includes airframe, fuel and payload is 20kg.


Because the Flamingo will be employed in a variety of situations, its undercarriage may be configured in three ways:

(1) Fixed undercarriage. This is ideal for local missions, pilot training and other tasks where landing and take off requires a fixed undercarriage.

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