Paraguay Creates Nation’s First Domestically Produced UAV
By Dialogo March 14, 2016
A joint effort between the Paraguayan Air Force (FAP) and one of the country's top universities will soon take flight. In August, the FAP and the Polytechnic Institute of the National University of Asunción (FPUNA) plan to unveil the Taguato I, the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) prototype fully manufactured in the South American nation after six years of testing.
“With each test, we find that we can improve by making adjustments," FAP Colonel Carlos Enrique Caballero, the project manager, explained to Diálogo
. “In December, we conducted a flight, which allowed us to make some adjustments for landing and a change of circuit systems. These are normal adjustments. In April, we will have another flight.”
Engineers and the Military will use the Taguato I as the foundation for the project's second phase – the development of the Taguato II, which will be used for Military and civilian missions. “The Taguato I is only for educational purposes,” Col. Caballero stated. “The Taguato II will have a higher cargo capacity and be used based on the needs of the country. For example, in Military missions, the Armed Forces will use it in the fight against organized crime. For civilian use, it will measure pollution, fly over areas affected by natural disasters and monitor forest reserves, among other tasks.”
The FAP and engineers from the Itaipú Technological Park (PTI) and FPUNA launched the project in 2009 and produced their first prototype of Taguato I in 2011. The following year, the FAP, through the Ministry of Defense, requested that the government declare the drone project an item of national interest.
The government issued that decree in 2013 and provided funds for the project. The FAP received support from FPUNA and sponsorship from the National Council of Science and Technology and the PTI Foundation. The FAP designed and built the Taguato I's structure and FPUNA developed the aircraft's software.
The Taguato II will be able to fly autonomously for six hours at an altitude of up to 4,000 feet and a range of 50 kilometers. The aircraft, which will weigh 90 kilograms and have a four-meter wingspan, is made of aluminum alloy 2024. It will be able to carry a maximum of 45 liters of fuel and features a two-cylinder, intelligent ignition engine.
Advances in nascent industry
Engineer Felix Kanazawa, a FPUNA professor and project manager, said within FPUNA there is an awareness that the Taguato I project is an encouraging start for the country's nascent aviation industry, especially in the field of UAVs and related technologies.
“Given that the best research arises in an educational setting, you could say that the FAP and the FPUNA need each other,” he told Diálogo
. “Aviation is based on constant technological evolution, which comes from focused educational research and meets the needs of society.”
Kanazawa said the project allows FPUNA's graduating aeronautical engineers to meet the Armed Forces' needs when it comes to acquiring and maintaining new aircraft. FPUNA also has signed agreements with the National Directorate of Civil Aviation (DINAC) and private companies, such as Aerocentro, a flight school and company representing the Cessna aircraft brand in Paraguay.
“[That's] where students perform internships and gain practical experience at its modern facilities, as addressed in one of the FPUNA’s objectives, [which is] to implement in its curriculum competencies based on the emerging needs of the domestic market in terms of demand in this area,” Kanazawa said.
“This is the first technological project that we are developing,” Col. Caballero stated. “We are looking at developing our own satellite, [but] we must first conclude this first phase of Taguato I and II to initiate a more robust project that will provide us with autonomy.”
DINAC engineer Guillermo Christ said his institution is leading the study of regulations to permit the flight of such aircraft in Paraguay, where officials are discussing potential regulations with officials from neighboring countries. “You cannot just take flight. It has to be coordinated with air traffic and comply with certain regulations to ensure operational safety and security,” Christ told La Nación
. "The aim is to have legislation as soon as possible, given that this is cutting-edge technology that is new around the world.”