Turkey shows Kalkan VTOL spy drone with 5 propulsion systems

Enter Baykar, a leading Turkish firm in the drone production arena, which recently showcased its cutting-edge innovation — the Kalkan spy drone. Capable of vertical takeoff and landing [VTOL], this stellar invention was seen during its 30th consecutive test, marking its public debut. 

Engineered to soar at an impressive altitude of 14,500 meters, Kalkan sets itself apart with its five propulsion systems. It employs four electric motors to facilitate vertical ascension and descension, along with a fuel-efficient gasoline engine that propels cruising speed. And Kalkan’s dedicated hours of testing and air flight? It has clocked an impressive 70 to date. Filled with high ambitions, the drafted technical requirements indicate an estimated seven-hour airtime for the drone. 

Industry insiders from Turkey confirm Kalkan has passed all assessments so far with flying colors. Wrapping up its most recent one — system identification — it was conducted at the Baykar Flight Training and Test Center nestled in Edirne’s Keshan district, during an actual drone flight.

Turkey shows Kalkan VTOL spy drone with 5 propulsion systems
Video screenshot

Thermal systems

Bayraktar Kalkan is designed for flexibility and precision with auto-navigation features like route tracking, target following, and return-to-home capabilities. This drone is equipped with the domestically-built Baykar BG-160 camera, specifically developed by Baykar. 

The advanced Turkish reconnaissance drone is capable of capturing high-resolution imagery even during the night. This is due to the built-in Baykar BG-160 electro-optical system, which includes thermal imaging capabilities. As a result, the Kalkan VTOL is proficient in executing day and night recon missions, surveillance, and target identification tasks. 

Turkey shows Kalkan VTOL spy drone with 5 propulsion systems
Video screenshot

What sets this drone apart is its integrated advanced optical system and its impressive vertical takeoff and landing [VTOL] capacity. This unique VTOL ability eliminates the need for a runway, allowing the Kalkan VTOL drone to lift off from any terrestrial point. This level of flexibility makes it incredibly easy to mobilize, further enhancing its utility. But it doesn’t stop there – the drone is even capable of deployment from any floating platform, making it remarkably resourceful for naval operations.

‘Spy for export’

Operating entirely on its own resources, Baykar’s exports accounted for a sizable 83% of all its revenue since launching the unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] research and development process in 2003. According to data from the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly [TİM], it has led in defense and space industry exports in both 2021 and 2022. 

Turkey shows Kalkan VTOL spy drone with 5 propulsion systems
Video screenshot

In 2023, the Defense Industries Presidency acknowledged Baykar as the sector’s export champion, touting exports worth $1.8 billion that same year. Over recent years, it has generated a staggering 90% of its revenue from exports. Notably, in 2023, Baykar contributed to one-third of the exports in the defense and space sector. To date, the company has secured export deals with 33 countries for Bayraktar TB2, along with 9 other countries for Bayraktar AKINCI. 

If the Kalkan secures an order from the Turkish Ministry of Defense, this drone will probably operate beyond Turkish borders. Turkish experts imply potential customers could include budget-conscious NATO member states and Turkish partners, those prioritizing affordable solutions over costly drones with substantial maintenance costs.

The ‘spies’ in the Turkish army

Bayraktar TB2 MALE unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV)
Photo: Wikipedia

The Turkish Armed Forces utilize a variety of military spy drones for their operations. One of the most prominent is the Bayraktar TB2. Manufactured by Baykar Makina, the TB2 is a medium altitude, long endurance [MALE] unmanned combat aerial vehicle [UCAV] that has seen extensive use in surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as in combat roles. 

The Anka is another significant drone in the Turkish military’s arsenal. Developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries, the Anka is a MALE UCAV designed for long-term operations. It’s equipped with a synthetic aperture radar, and forward-looking infrared sensors, and can carry a variety of payloads for different mission types. 

Another noteworthy drone is the Karayel, produced by Vestel Defense. The Karayel is a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] designed for surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition missions. Additionally, the Turkish military uses the TAI Aksungur, a high-capacity, twin-engine MALE UAV. This drone can carry a significant payload and has a long flight duration, making it ideal for extended surveillance missions.

Turkey tested second prototype of Akinci attack drone with a new engine
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Finally, the Songar drone, developed by Asisguard, is a unique addition to the Turkish drone fleet. The Songar is an armed drone capable of precision strikes, and it’s notable for being the first Turkish drone to be equipped with a machine gun.

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