The technologically superior drone is equipped with missiles and cruise missiles. It can also collect data from a high altitude.

Over a decade ago, when Selcuk Bayraktar showed a tiny, homemade drone to a group of Turkish government officials, little did he know that his presentation as a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would become the genesis of Turkey's drone innovation. 

Bayraktar knew the potential of these unmanned flying objects, and how it would make Turkey one of the most prolific users of drones for security reasons, so he asked the Turkish government for help.

“Boeing, Lockheed, these are big companies, right?” he said to the officials while giving his drone presentation in 2005. “We are making those same systems. If Turkey supports this project, these drones, in five years Turkey can be at the forefront of the world, easily.”

By 2007, Bayraktar abandoned his PhD and returned to Turkey to build drones. Soon after, he launched one of his marquee products, the TB2 drones, which surpassed the Turkish Aerospace Industry’s (TAI) drones and convinced the country's defence ministry that there was no need to import drones from the US while Bayraktars drones were available in the country. 

Since then, Turkish drones have become a game-changer on various fronts, offering the Turkish armed forces real-time intelligence. By 2019, Turkey fielded more than 75 Bayraktar TB2 drones, flying over 6,000 hours a month. 

Nine years after their first flight, several countries, such as Libya, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Qatar, Turkmenistan, Oman, and Pakistan have started using them. 

The country's drone innovation technology has reached new heights. On March 13, Bayraktar announced the second prototype of Turkey’s unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) named Akinci PT-2, passed another test successfully. 

On its official Twitter account, Bayraktar's company Baykar Defense said: “Each successfully completed test brings Akinci one step closer to the mission: which is to be free and independent in our sky”. 

Bayraktar, who is Baykar’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), shared the recent visuals of the test on Twitter.

The prototype made its second flight in January 2020 and last August, the second prototype of the drone was also successfully tested in northwestern Turkey. It was announced that the Bayraktar Akinci Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) had a flight time of 62 minutes.

When the drone completed its first test flight at the Corlu Airport Base Command, Bayraktar said that Baykar Defense would soon begin mass production of the domestically-made unmanned combat aerial vehicle.

Baykar-made new Akinci drones are expected to enter the inventory of Turkish security forces this year - they have the ability to fly for 24 hours and has a service ceiling of 40,000 feet (12,192 metres), a 20-metre wingspan, and the capacity to carry a load of 1,350 kilograms (2,976 pounds).

Akinci combat drones will provide high flight safety with their fully automatic flight control and triple-redundant auto-pilot systems. The drone, equipped with locally-made AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar and air-to-air missiles, Gokdogan and Bozdogan, can launch several locally-made ammo, such as SOM (stand-off) cruise missiles.

It can also collect and save data from its sensors and cameras due to six artificial intelligence (AI) computers. Akinci can detect land targets that are not visible to the human eye and fly without a GPS with its AI systems.

Turkey’s drone path inspiring many others for a while

One of the most potent Turkish drones has been the TB2 drone, produced by Baykar, which can fly at an altitude of 24,000 feet for up to 24 hours. It has a range of up to 150 kilometres and can carry a payload of 120 pounds. 

The drone has become a key military asset for cross-border and counterterrorism operations, proving successful against the PKK terror group in the southeastern parts of the country. With TB2 drones hovering above, PKK terrorists are unable to move in large groups as they did before Turkey became one of the leading drone powers of the world. 

Since Turkey’s homegrown Bayraktar drones have changed battleground equations in several conflicts, it was previously revealed that even Western countries like the UK were on their paths to emulate Turkey’s drone program. 

In January, reports emerged that the UK is planning to build a new armed drone program that will be modeled on Turkey's drone innovation. 

In addition to Baykar, many other Turkish firms are active in the defence field through their cutting-edge military products, such as armed UAVs, remote control guns, missiles, and air defence systems. 

Turkey has conducted several successful operations in Syria, Libya, and some other regions with unmanned military vehicles. Five Turkish firms, Aselsan, TAI, STM, Roketsan, and BMC are ranked among the top 100 defence companies in the world.

Source: TRT World