Hybrid engine and artificial intelligence for Zala 421-16E5G UAV

Russia’s ZALA Aero (part of the Kalashnikov Group within the state tech corporation Rostec) has developed the world’s first light unmanned aircraft ZALA 421-16E5G outfitted with a hybrid powerplant combining an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, ZALA Aero Special Projects Head Nikita Khamitov told TASS during the drone’s presentation on April 15.

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Hybrid engine and artificial intelligence for Zala 421 16E5G UAV ZALA 421-16E5G (Picture source: TASS)

"We have been the first in the world to combine an internal combustion engine and an electric motor in this class of drones. The company has made a sequential hybrid: during the flight the internal combustion engine is not the main driving force but feeds the generator and the buffer battery. This, in turn, supplies power to all onboard systems and assemblies, including the electric motor," Khamitov said.

The hybrid powerplant boosts the drone’s flight duration compared to similar unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.

"Thanks to this scheme, we have achieved a flight time of over 16 hours and have provided a possibility to operate over an object of interest in a completely silent mode," Khamitov noted.

The drone’s serial production has already begun, he said. "A customer is already available. The serial production has already been launched," he added.

The ZALA Aero production capacities allow producing up to 300 various drones a year, he added.

The ZALA 421-16E5G is the world’s first unmanned aircraft without an airfield base outfitted with a hybrid powerplant of an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. The drone is positioned as an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.

"The payload allows using target acquisition, communications relay and 2G, 3G and 4G mobile network monitoring systems. It can conduct radio-technical reconnaissance in the area and identify mobile phones and their location and also relay communications to several dozen kilometers," Khamitov added.


Russia’s latest drone with hybrid engine gets artificial intelligence

The ZALA 421-16E5G drone has received the software based on neural nets and artificial intelligence, Khamitov said.

"We have created a system of fully decoding the underlying terrain with the help of the neural net located right onboard this drone. Upon the completion of a flight, we obtain full information on the number of objects in the area of interest for us and it can even determine changes in terrain features," he informed.

The new drone is outfitted with artificial intelligence elements, Khamitov said. "It is equipped with artificial intelligence that decodes and identifies objects and provides video navigation that has not been implemented anywhere in Russia as of today," he added.

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