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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

27 April 2016

Cirrus Perception Special Mission Aircraft Program Takes Flight

Cirrus Aircraft’s new Special Mission Aircraft (MSA) is being offered in response to the military and security sectors’ increasing demand for smaller, yet capable air surveillance platforms. 
David D. Moser, the vice president for Fleet and Special Mission Aircraft at Cirrus Aircraft told MT his company is a recognised leader in general aviation. Its all-composite line of personal aircraft - the SR20, SR22 and the turbocharged SR22T - incorporate innovative and advanced performance, electronic and safety technologies, including Cirrus Perspective by Garmin avionics and the unique Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS).

Picture shows CATS, an Airbus Defence company, was Cirrus’ initial customer for Cirrus Perception. (Source: Cirrus Aircraft)

While all Cirrus aircraft are made in the US and a direct sales force is in North America, the company has authorised sales agents covering export markets in 60 countries around the world. 

Cirrus Perception is our special-mission platform based on the SR22 and SR22T, allowing operators to carry and operate a wide range of externally mounted cameras and sensors for military, law enforcement and civilian survey missions,” the corporate leader said. Moser added that Cirrus Perception is an ideal platform for aerial security and surveillance, with low acquisition and operating costs. “Cirrus Perception also offers must-mission versatility. In less than 10 minutes the external mounting system and payload can be removed and stowed, making the aircraft ideal for light lift or transport purposes.”

With respect to surveillance capability, the Cirrus Perception includes a sensor mounting system, aerodynamic fairing and an electrical interface with dedicated circuitry for the special mission equipment – with the intent to use best-of-breed solutions for its customers’ shifting yet tailored requirements. 

Cirrus has designed Perception to accept any external payload within the design envelope – currently 10.5” in diameter, 14.0” high, and a maximum of 50lbs. (22.7kg.).  Moser emphasised “This will allow the operator to carry a wide range of cameras or sensors.  Cirrus works closely with a number of special mission equipment providers, including: UTC Cloud Cap, FLIR, and L-3 Wescam, but we are agnostic when it comes to the systems our customers wish to deploy on the Cirrus Perception platform.”

Asked if Cirrus was concerned the air surveillance market may be too crowded for this new entry, Moser responded, “As EO/IR sensor technology has improved, with more advanced capabilities in a smaller package, the Cirrus Perception can now fill a unique niche in the market, with a lower cost platform compared to helicopters and larger fixed-wing assets. Not only will current operators be able to fly more missions at lower direct operating costs, the price point for Cirrus Perception will allow more agencies to acquire and operate aerial surveillance assets.”

US Federal Aviation Administration certification is expected in May 2016.  “Additionally, we are initiating Phase 2 of the project to expand the carrying capacity, in order to accommodate larger external payloads,” Moser revealed.

CATS, an Airbus Defence company, was Cirrus’ initial customer for Cirrus Perception. Moser concluded, “They have deployed the Cirrus Perception system on an SR22 in 2015 under a EASA Supplemental Type Certificate. They use the system to provide aerial survey and surveillance services to government clients. We expect to announce a launch customer in the US in the summer of 2016.”

Marty Kauchak