Swiss Air Force's ADS 15 reconnaissance UAV completes first local flight

A successful first flight in Switzerland has been completed by the Swiss Air Force’s Aufklärungsdrohnensystems 15 (ADS 15, Reconnaissance Drone System 15) at Emmen Air Base.

Shortly after 0700hrs local time on June 15, serial number D-14, one of two that arrived in the country at the end of April, took to the air at Emmen for the first time, flown by a Swiss test pilot. After being airborne for around 70 minutes, it landed safely back at Emmen. During the flight, the UAV attained a maximum speed of 112mph (180km/h) and a maximum altitude of 6,560ft (2,000m) above sea level. The milestone followed completion of successful taxiing trials at Emmen in May.


Swiss AF ADS 15 first flight
ADS 15 serial number D-14 takes off from Emmen Air Base on June 15 for the type’s first sortie in Swiss airspace. Armasuisse/DDPS

Specialists from the Israeli manufacturer Elbit supported the Swiss project team in the preparation before and during the flight. All planned test points of the first flight were successfully completed. The ADS 15 is based on Elbit’s Hermes 900, adapted to Swiss requirements.

The successful first flight marks an important step in the procurement of the ADS 15 and further flying tests in Switzerland. In the coming months, additional tests will take place with these first two UAVs (serial numbers D-11 and D-14) from Swiss military airfields. Among other things, the sensors will be tested, the technical functionality of the UAVs checked and flown and missions of various durations in length carried out.

The ADS 15 can remain in the air for up to 24 hours. Once flight testing and authorisation by the Military Aviation Authority (MAA) have been completed, the two UAVs will be transferred to the Air Force during the second half of the year. The remaining four UAVs will follow by the end of 2023.


Swiss AF ADS 15 first flight
ADS 15 serial number D-14 on the ramp at Emmen Air Base on June 15 as it powers up for the type’s first sortie in Swiss airspace. Armasuisse/DDPS

The ADS 15 is an unmanned and unarmed reconnaissance system which replaces the ADS 95 (Oerlikon Ranger), used by the Armed Forces until being retired at the end of 2019, which was based on technology from the 1980s. The forecast operating life of ADS 15 is around 20 years. It is intended for situation and target intelligence but can also be equipped with different sensors as necessary, such as imaging radar, to generate a picture of the situation on the ground or for electronic reconnaissance. The system can be deployed both in daytime or at night.


The ADS 15 can be used for monitoring of large areas; target search, reconnaissance and pursuit; and input to the operational picture and protection of critical infrastructures and own forces.

As with the previous system, the users are to be both military and civilian authorities, such as Cantonal Management Staff, police and rescue agencies and the Swiss Border Guard. When defending against a military attack, the ADS 15 will help manage and control ground activities, in particular for fire support. Apart from reconnaissance UAVs, only helicopters equipped with infrared sensors (forward-looking infrared: FLIR) are suitable for aerial reconnaissance at present. The procurement comprises six air vehicles including ground components, simulator and logistics.