Greece was a drone pioneer - What went wrong?


Today we may see Turkish drones threshing in the Aegean but the Hellenic Air Force has been a pioneer in the development of drones at a global level. This is another one of the usual and now so predictable "lost opportunities" of the Greek defence - and not only - industry.

Domestic rivalries, bad decisions, conflicting interests, bad planning and all the Greek evils have brought us from the front line to the back seat and in the field of unmanned aircraft development.

The history of PEGASUS goes back to the distant 1979 when its evolution began at K.E.T.A. of the Air Force, which was completed in record time, just one and a half years. It was aimed at aerial surveillance and intelligence gathering.

The aircraft was groundbreaking for the technology of the time as very few people in the world were dealing with unmanned aircraft at the time. And it had its first flight in 1982 with success, despite the still amateur remote control equipment.

The first generation, PEGASUS I, had a length of 2.1 metres, a maximum speed of 160 km/h, an autonomy close to 3.5 hours and a take-off weight of 130 kg.

Its design and development was undertaken by a group of officers from the Aviation Research and Technology Centre. Those directly involved were PA engineers along with aeromodeller fanatics who utilised their knowledge and passion, being pioneers in the development of drones around the world.

In fact, there were also intentions for exports to various countries, as the whole project was still far ahead of its time for Aviation in many and much more technologically developed countries.

The program got tangled up in the Greek cogs and there were long delays, resulting in 12 units being produced by EAV. After some losses, the program was put on hold for several years.

Nevertheless, over the years, PEGASUS had evolved significantly, with capabilities that are still impressive today, having an autonomy of almost 12 hours and a flight ceiling of 15,000 feet.

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In 2005, the second generation, PEGASOS II, appeared, with even better features. It had sophisticated cameras and tracking systems, a length of 4.3 metres, a wingspan of 6.2 metres, a take-off load of 250 kg, and an autonomy of 15 hours.

The second generation entered service normally, but the economic crisis brought new difficulties to the program - a program that cost the Greek taxpayer very little money and was done by Greek hands and with domestic know-how.

The PEGASOS program had the "misfortune" of being far ahead of its time. It is indicative that the Turks started with Bayraktar in 2014, when the Greeks made the first plans in 1979.

How we manage to go from being pioneers to finding ourselves at the back, entangled in interests, failures and lack of vision, is another one of the "achievements" of our race.

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