June 23, 2017 / 4:37 AM / 2 years ago

Elbit Systems says innovation key to crowded drone market

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Israeli defence electronics firm Elbit Systems is seen at their offices in Haifa, Israel February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems Ltd (ESLT.TA), (ESLT.O) is moving quickly to innovate and maintain its edge in a global market in which it faces increasing competition from China, France, Turkey and others.

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) maker’s vice president Elad Aharonson told Reuters his firm is adding new capabilities to its drones and boosting their data processing power to meet the needs of his Australian, Brazilian, South Korean, Indian and U.S customers.

Elbit unveiled a new remotely-operated drone at the Paris Airshow, SkyStriker, described as a “long-loitering munition” that is designed to fly for hours while sending back live video and data and to also be guided onto a target to deliver explosives. The drone offers a “kill” function that allows an operator to abort the strike at the last minute.

New products like the SkyStriker UAV are an example of the constant need for innovation, said Aharonson, who also leads Elbit’s intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) division created in 2015.

The division allows Elbit to fuse drone data collection with data management and analysis.

Aharonson said customers need more than just hours of footage from flying drones. “A lot of data is collected on the desk of the officer, and he doesn’t know what to do with it,” Aharonson said.

In the U.S. military market the firms with the most annual sales are General Atomics, Northrop Grumman NOC.N. and Textron (TXT.N) according to analytics firm Govini, which tracks the public records of federal contracts. Currently, Elbit considers its main competition to be U.S. and Israeli firms, Aharonson said.

At the end of the first quarter, Elbit posted higher profits boosted by a rise in revenue. At the time, Chief Executive Bezhalel Machlis said he saw larger defenses spending “especially in the electronic defense sphere.”

Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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