Hermes™ 650 Spark Unveiled: Elbit Systems Launches a New State-of-the-Art UAS


In a groundbreaking event on February 21, 2024, Elbit Systems, a global pioneer in defense technology, proudly introduced the Hermes™ 650 Spark. This addition enriches the esteemed Hermes family, setting a new benchmark in the Next Generation Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) domain. The Hermes™ 650 Spark, unveiled in Haifa, encapsulates a significant leap in technological advancement, offering unparalleled endurance, versatility, and cost-effective performance tailored for comprehensive land, air, and sea operations.

Elbit Systems, with its rich legacy in the defense sector, continues to redefine the boundaries of innovation and excellence. The Hermes™ 650 Spark is a testament to the company’s unwavering dedication to enhancing global defense capabilities, emphasizing autonomous operation, a wide flight envelope, high payload capacity, and minimum life cycle cost. This UAS is engineered to meet the highest standards of safety, survivability, and immunity, featuring increased range, flight speed, and efficiency, all while being NATO STANAG 4671 compliant.

Yoram Shmuely, the General Manager of Elbit Systems Aerospace, articulated the significance of this launch, highlighting the Hermes™ 650 Spark as a critical milestone for the company. Shmuely underscored the UAS’s role in fortifying Elbit Systems’ position as a leader in the aerospace defense market. He expressed confidence that the Hermes™ 650 Spark would play a pivotal role in advancing defense technology, ensuring security, and adeptly responding to the dynamic demands of contemporary warfare.

The Hermes™ 650 Spark represents a strategic enhancement to the Hermes family, known for its tactical prowess and Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) capabilities. This UAS extends the operational capabilities of its predecessors by incorporating next-generation multi-mission versatility and survivability. It is designed to seamlessly integrate into a wide array of operational contexts, including air, land, sea, homeland security, and civilian applications. Its design focuses on maximizing payload capacity without compromising on endurance, facilitated by large payload bays and modular storage stations.

This tactical UAS distinguishes itself through its autonomous and digital capabilities, aiming to minimize life cycle costs while maximizing operational efficiency and effectiveness. It supports automatic takeoff and landing (ATOL) and auto-taxi capabilities, making it suitable for operations from short runways. The Hermes™ 650 Spark’s notable payload capacity of 260kg, including six hard points on the wings for up to 120kg of payload on full fuel capacity, underscores its operational flexibility.

Furthermore, the Hermes™ 650 Spark is adept at carrying out extended missions within SATCOM range, with an endurance of up to 24 hours. Its ability to integrate multiple payloads simultaneously, including electro-optics (EO), radar, SIGINT, and other advanced technologies, makes it a formidable asset in modern aerial missions.

Elbit Systems’ introduction of the Hermes™ 650 Spark marks a significant advancement in the realm of unmanned aerial systems. It not only reinforces the company’s commitment to pioneering defense technologies but also sets a new standard for operational excellence in the industry. The Hermes™ 650 Spark is poised to become an indispensable tool for defense forces worldwide, offering a strategic advantage in the increasingly complex landscape of modern warfare.

Hermes 650 Spark: Pioneering Advancements in UAS Technology and Integration

Development and flight testing of the Hermes 650 Spark are currently underway, marking a significant stride forward in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology. The forecasted first deliveries, expected within the next year, herald a new era in operational capabilities, promising to replace the longstanding Hermes 450 units that have served faithfully for over three decades. The Spark’s emergence continues the legacy of its predecessors, embodying a commitment to seamless integration, operational safety, and adaptability, particularly alongside its counterparts, the Hermes 900 MALE UAS and the Starliner.

Designed with a keen eye on the evolving landscape of UAS operations, the Hermes 650 Spark has been meticulously crafted to adhere to the stringent standards laid out by NATO STANAG 4671 regulations. These regulations serve as the cornerstone for certifiable UAS, ensuring compliance with safety and operational requirements essential for operating in civilian airspace. Notably, this strategic approach echoes the success achieved with the company’s Starliner, derived from the Hermes 900, which blazed a trail by becoming the first MALE UAS to obtain such certification in 2022.

TABLE 1 – NATO STANAG 4671: Pioneering Regulation for Certifiable Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

The evolution of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has been accompanied by a pressing need for robust regulatory frameworks to ensure their safe and effective integration into civilian airspace. Among the most notable developments in this regard is the establishment of NATO STANAG 4671 regulations, which have emerged as a pioneering standard for certifiable UAS. These regulations, formulated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), provide a comprehensive framework outlining the criteria and requirements for UAS certification, thus facilitating their operation in civilian airspace.

The genesis of NATO STANAG 4671 can be traced back to a growing recognition of the need to harmonize UAS operations within NATO member states and allied nations. The proliferation of UAS technology, coupled with its increasing utilization in both military and civilian domains, underscored the imperative for standardized regulations to ensure interoperability, safety, and regulatory compliance. Consequently, NATO embarked on an ambitious initiative to develop a set of regulations that would serve as a common benchmark for certifiable UAS.

The development process for NATO STANAG 4671 was characterized by collaboration and consultation among member states, industry stakeholders, and regulatory authorities. Drawing upon existing national regulations, international standards, and best practices, the drafting committee endeavored to create a comprehensive framework that would address the unique challenges posed by UAS operations. The result was a meticulously crafted document encompassing technical, operational, and regulatory considerations essential for the certification of UAS.

One of the defining features of NATO STANAG 4671 is its focus on risk-based certification, which takes into account the operational capabilities and intended use of the UAS. By categorizing UAS into different classes based on their weight, performance, and operational characteristics, the regulations provide a tailored approach to certification, ensuring that requirements are commensurate with the level of risk posed by the UAS. This risk-based approach not only enhances safety but also facilitates the integration of UAS into diverse operational environments.

Another key aspect of NATO STANAG 4671 is its emphasis on interoperability and standardization. Recognizing the importance of seamless integration within multinational coalitions and interoperability with existing systems, the regulations prescribe standardized interfaces, communication protocols, and data formats to facilitate interoperability among UAS and other air traffic management systems. This interoperability is essential for enhancing situational awareness, coordination, and cooperation among UAS operators, air traffic controllers, and other stakeholders.

Furthermore, NATO STANAG 4671 incorporates provisions for airworthiness certification, operator certification, and regulatory oversight, thereby establishing a comprehensive framework for the entire lifecycle of UAS operations. Airworthiness certification ensures that UAS meet stringent safety and performance standards, while operator certification validates the competency and proficiency of UAS operators. Regulatory oversight, conducted by competent authorities designated by NATO member states, ensures compliance with applicable regulations and standards.

The significance of NATO STANAG 4671 extends beyond the military domain to encompass civilian applications of UAS, including surveillance, reconnaissance, disaster response, and environmental monitoring. By providing a common framework for UAS certification, the regulations facilitate the integration of UAS into civilian airspace, unlocking their full potential to address societal challenges and enhance operational capabilities across various sectors.

Deciphering NATO UAS Classifications and Airworthiness Standards

ClassificationNATO Airworthiness StandardMaximum Take-off WeightNotes
Fixed-Wing Military UASSTANAG 4671150 – 20,000 kg– Classes II and III according to the classification table
– Ongoing discussion regarding the lower threshold, potential revision to 600 kg in the future
Rotary-Wing UASSTANAG 4702N/A– Tailored to rotary-wing UAS
Light UASSTANAG 4703N/A– Tailored to light UAS
Small VTOL UASSTANAG 4746 (Pending)N/A– Pending ratification, intended for small VTOL UAS
Other Information– NATO UAS classification guideline serves as the foundation for classification
– Provides a systematic approach to differentiate UAS based on size, scale, and wing type
– Segments the airworthiness certification task into manageable sections
– Subject to potential adjustments in the future to align with evolving UAS landscape
This table breaks down the UAS classifications along with their respective NATO airworthiness standards, maximum take-off weights, and additional notes regarding ongoing discussions and pending ratifications.

The realm of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) has witnessed a profound evolution, marked by technological advancements and a surge in applications across various domains. Within this landscape, NATO has emerged as a pivotal player, orchestrating efforts to establish comprehensive airworthiness standards tailored to different classifications of UAS. This endeavor is underscored by the imperative to ensure safety, interoperability, and efficiency within military and civilian operations involving UAS.

The genesis of NATO’s UAS classifications lies in a meticulous classification guideline document, strategically devised to delineate distinct classes of UAS. This foundational document provides the scaffolding necessary to navigate the diverse landscape of UAS, considering parameters such as size, scale, and wing type. Central to this classification schema are four primary subsets: fixed-wing military UAS, rotary-wing UAS, light UAS, and small Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAS.

At the vanguard of this classification framework is STANAG 4671, the bedrock upon which airworthiness standards for fixed-wing military UAS are erected. It delineates criteria for UAS with a maximum take-off weight ranging from 150 to 20,000 kg, encompassing Classes II and III as per the classification table. However, deliberations persist within the airworthiness development echelon regarding the optimal lower threshold for this standard, with proposals to potentially revise it to 600 kg in the future. This deliberation underscores the nuanced challenge of reconciling the expansive precepts of STANAG 4671 with the operational realities of smaller-scale UAS, necessitating a delicate balance between robust certification standards and operational feasibility.

Complementing STANAG 4671 are three additional NATO airworthiness standards tailored to different UAS categories. STANAG 4702 caters to rotary-wing UAS, whereas STANAG 4703 addresses light UAS, each tailored to the unique operational and design characteristics of these subsets. Furthermore, anticipation looms over the impending ratification of STANAG 4746, poised to govern small VTOL UAS, thereby completing the quartet of NATO UAS airworthiness standards.

Integral to the evolution of these airworthiness standards is the pivotal role played by the NATO UAS classification guideline. Serving as a blueprint for segmentation and categorization, this guideline serves as a linchpin for the systematic development and application of airworthiness standards. While future iterations may witness adjustments to this guideline, its current delineations serve as crucial boundaries guiding the trajectory of NATO UAS airworthiness standards development.

In essence, the journey towards establishing comprehensive UAS airworthiness standards within NATO’s purview is characterized by meticulous deliberation, technological scrutiny, and a steadfast commitment to safety and interoperability. As the UAS landscape continues to burgeon with innovation and diversification, the efficacy of NATO’s classification schema and airworthiness standards will remain paramount in fostering a secure and harmonized operational environment for UAS deployment.

* Note: In the event the UAS is armed, the operator should comply with the applicable Joint MissionQualifications in AP XXXX (STANAG 4670) and the system will need to comply with applicable air worthiness standards, regulations, policy, treaty and legal considerations.

** Note UAS that have a maximum energy state less than 66 Joules are not likely to cause significant damage to life or property and do not need to be classified or regulated for airworthiness, training, etc. purposes unless they have the ability to employ hazardous payloads (explosive, toxic, biological, etc.).

The genesis of the Hermes 650 Spark represents not just a technological evolution but a response to the pressing demand for UAS integration into civilian airspace. The meticulous adherence to NATO STANAG 4671 regulations underscores a commitment to safety and regulatory compliance, paving the way for broader adoption and integration of UAS technology in diverse operational environments.

The lineage of the Hermes 650 Spark can be traced back to its predecessors, which have long been stalwarts in the realm of unmanned aerial systems. The Hermes 450, with its storied history spanning over three decades, has proven its mettle in various mission scenarios, earning a reputation for reliability and versatility. However, as operational requirements evolve and technological advancements continue apace, the need for a successor becomes increasingly evident.

Takeoff Weight (kg)5506501180
Userful Pyload (kg)180260350
Endurance (h)172436
Service Ceiling (ft)180002200030000
IOC (year)199820242012
Comparison of the Hermes family members

In this context, the Hermes 650 Spark emerges as a beacon of innovation, offering enhanced capabilities and compliance with contemporary regulatory frameworks. Its design ethos, centered around interoperability with existing platforms and standardized payloads, ensures a smooth transition and compatibility within mixed fleets. This interoperability is not merely a technical feat but a testament to the company’s commitment to operational efficiency and flexibility.

Flight testing, a critical phase in the development of any UAS, serves as a litmus test for its performance and reliability. The meticulous scrutiny applied during this phase is essential for identifying and rectifying any potential issues before deployment. With the Hermes 650 Spark, this phase takes on added significance, given its dual mandate of meeting operational demands while adhering to stringent regulatory requirements.

The integration of standardized payloads, control systems, and ground support equipment underscores a holistic approach to operational readiness. By aligning with established standards, the Hermes 650 Spark not only streamlines logistics and maintenance but also facilitates interoperability across diverse mission profiles. This adaptability is particularly crucial in dynamic operational environments where versatility and responsiveness are paramount.

Looking ahead, the deployment of the Hermes 650 Spark heralds a new chapter in UAS technology, one characterized by enhanced safety, interoperability, and regulatory compliance. As the first deliveries loom on the horizon, anticipation is high for the transformative impact this advanced platform will have on unmanned aerial operations. With its lineage steeped in excellence and innovation, the Hermes 650 Spark stands poised to redefine the capabilities and possibilities of modern UAS technology.

TABLE 1 – Hermes 650

The Spark represents a revolutionary advancement in unmanned aerial systems (UAS), surpassing the capabilities of its predecessor, the tactical Hermes 450. Engineered with a mission-optimized aerodynamic design and equipped with an aviation-certified forward engine, the Spark is primed to excel in extended missions lasting up to 24 hours. With an enhanced focus on performance and spatial efficiency, this cutting-edge UAS integrates versatile payload bays and multiple mounting points, significantly augmenting its payload capacity and operational flexibility.

Characteristics of the Spark:

Aerodynamic Design– Mission-optimized design for enhanced performance
– Aviation-certified forward engine
– Supports extended missions up to 24 hours
Payload Capacity– Increased payload capacity
– Integration of versatile payload bays and multiple mounting points
– Capable of transporting payloads up to 120 kg without affecting flight duration
Mission Performance– Extended range
– Heightened flight speed
– Increased endurance
– Improved operational efficiency
Autonomous Operations– Autonomous ground taxi capabilities
– Automated take-off and landing abilities
– Capability to operate in crosswinds of up to 25 knots
Operational Requirements– Requires only a 200m take-off strip and an 800m landing runway
– Rapid readiness for subsequent missions with predictive maintenance and automated pre-flight protocols
– Lower Life Cycle Cost (LCC) due to operational efficiency
Performance Metrics– Maximum take-off weight: 650 kg
– Payload capacity: 260 kg
– Altitude capability: 22,000 ft
– Operational range: 300 km within line of sight
– Extended range with integrated satellite communications uplink
– Cruise speed: 120 knots
– Loitering speed: 55 knots above the target area
– Engine capable of contending with up to 80 knots of headwinds
Compatibility and Payloads– Compatible with advanced payloads including high-definition electro-optics (EO), radar, SIGINT systems, etc.
– Compatibility with payloads utilized by the Hermes 450 and 900

The Spark sets a new standard in UAS capabilities, combining unmatched performance with operational efficiency, autonomous functionality, and adaptability to diverse mission requirements. With its state-of-the-art features and exceptional specifications, the Spark stands as a pinnacle in modern unmanned aerial technology.



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