Georgia conducted a test flight of its first domestically produced unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on Tuesday, the Georgian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili observed the “successful” test flight, which took place at a military base near the capital of Tbilisi “amid complex terrain and climate conditions,” the statement said.
Saakashvili said on Monday the drone was “designed to the highest technological specifications.” It is capable of flying for eight hours at an altitude of 100 to 3,000 meters and can develop speeds of between 60 and 160 km/h, the Defense Ministry statement said.
The drone is equipped with a dual camera gimbal, photo and infrared camera and can be used for reconnaissance, surveillance, coast guard and border patrol missions, as well as for civilian purposes.
On the eve of the test flight, Valery Yakhnovets, the defense minister of the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia, threatened to destroy any Georgian aircraft, including UAVs, detected in South Ossetia’s airspace.
Georgia has operated Israeli-made drones purchased from the Elbit Systems defense electronics company under a 2007 contract. Saakashvili said in 2008 that Georgia had about 40 Israeli drones, among them medium-size Hermes 450.
However, following the August 2008 war with Russia over South Ossetia, Georgia moved to develop its own drones, canceling its contract with Israel.
In late February, WikiLeaks released an email exchange between employees of Stratfor, the US-based global intelligence company, revealing that Israel has provided the Russian military with secret codes for Georgian drones, in exchange for information on missile systems that Russia sold to Iran.